Saturday, April 18, 2009

Movies: Delusions of Grandeur Double Feature

All this week, I'll be posting double feature movie reviews based on a particular theme. Today's post reviews two dark comedies where the main character is suffering from delusions of grandeur.

"Observe and Report"

Most of the time, my opinion of a movie falls in line with what most professional critics think (as reflected in aggregation sites like Rotten Tomatoes). "Observe and Report," a black comedy directed by Jody Hill, is one of those cases where I disagree with the mainstream:

Seth Rogen plays Ronnie, a loser security guard who is comically inept at his job. When a flasher starts harassing people at the mall where Ronnie works, the situation turns into an opportunity for Ronnie to realize his life's dream - to become a real police officer. Along for the ride are Anna Faris and Ray Liotta.

Critical reaction was mixed. It's an R-rated comedy in the "Superbad" mold without the reaffirming life lesson or the optimistic upturn at the end. It will be a shock for people expecting lighthearted slapstick in the vein of "Paul Blart: Mall Cop." "Observe and Report" is unrelenting in its capacity to offend: you'll see plenty of racial stereotypes, toilet humor, and even a near date-rape during its runtime.

For my part, I appreciate that director Jody Hill kept things funny and dark instead of predictable and inoffensive. Seth Rogen does a great job of playing an incompetent jerk of a security guard who still commands the sympathy of the audience, especially in the climactic (and unexpected) end sequence. The message may not be quite as hopeful as other movies, but you'll laugh all the same.

Rating: 9/10


The last time I saw Michael Rapaport, he was starring in the short-lived sitcom "The War at Home." Now that I've seen his interestingly off-kilter turn in "Special," I wonder what he's been up to during the interim:

Rapaport plays Les, a lonely meter maid who signs up for a drug trial. When the drug has unexpected side effects, Les becomes convinced that he has developed superpowers, and decides that he must use them to make the world a better place. The sharp schism between his reality and the reality of others becomes the focal point of the movie.

Directed by Hal Haberman and Jeremy Passmore, "Special" looks like it was shot on a shoestring. The grainy look of the movie is pretty effective, though, and it presents a stark contrast from the ultra-slick superhero tales people are used to at the cineplex. The minimalist special effects never look cheap or low-budget.

The plot is pretty implausible in hindsight, and overall the movie doesn't show you too many things that you didn't see coming. But Rapaport really steals the show. His character is faced with almost insurmountable obstacles, mental and physical. It's easy for the audience to laugh or make fun of protagonists like Les if they aren't pulled off right, but Rapaport imbues the character with a gritty determination; it may not quite be "heroic," but it certainly is special.

Rating: 7/10


Post a Comment

<< Home