Observe and Report Observed by a Real Mall Cop and a Reporter
A few months ago, I had the bright idea of "fact checking" the movie Paul Blart: Mall Cop with a real mall cop named Steve. I'll admit now that it was basically an excuse to go to the movies on a Friday afternoon instead of going to the office -- plus I got some popcorn. There were also a bunch of kids there (Broward public schools had the day off), and it smelled like poop.
So when I saw commercials for a second mall cop movie -- one with an R rating (no poopy kids to deal with) -- I knew what I had to do: I had to take another Friday afternoon and go to the movies again.
And again, I brought along a serious loss-prevention expert to tell me what he thought. See, otherwise it would just be me at the movies with some candy, and not work.
So if you're looking for a real review of Observe and Report, go here. Otherwise, jump.
I met my new friend Dill (a nom de guerre he requested, after an alias Seth Rogen's character uses in the movie) outside the theater for a 1:25 show. Though he says technically he isn't a "mall cop," he does work security at a big-box store attached to what he describes as "a shithole of a mall." I agreed to buy his ticket in exchange for his candid observations on the movie.
Now, judging by the trailer, I figured this movie would be identical to the Kevin James blockbuster from January, perhaps with some more language, nudity, consumption, and violence -- all of which I'm generally a fan of in film. Both movies have a sad, suburban mall cop who lives with his mother and wishes he were a police officer, plus a blond shop-girl love interest, an antagonist "real" cop intent on embarrassing the hero, and some incredibly awkward social interaction.
But where Paul Blart was hokey and filled with corporate sponsorship (it must have been filmed before this little recession took full hold), Observe is dark and at times sociopathic -- our hero has a scene with his love interest in which he commits what authorities in the real world like to call "date rape." But it wasn't so disturbing that Dill and I never laughed (though nobody in the audience made a sound during the passed-out-sex scene).
Seth Rogen plays Ronnie Barnhardt, head of security at another shithole of a mall. He was raised by his drunk mother (his father left when he was born, and when he asks his mother if it could possibly be his fault, she replies, "Absolutely"), and his favorite hobbies are shooting guns with his loser friends and talking about blowing people away (at one point, he aims an imaginary shotgun at a psychologist). When a flasher and a thief strike the shitty mall, Ronnie believes it's his time to shine. Of course, the real detective on the case (played by Ray Liotta) disagrees.
Dill, who's in his early 20s, says he works with "one or two guys that may be that unbelievably pathetic" but nobody who "really cares much about becoming a cop." And he says if any of his coworkers are as into weaponry as the mall cops in the movie, "I'd call the fucking cops on them in a second."
As far as fact-checking goes, Dill told me, "I've never beaten the shit out of kids or anything. Not that I didn't want to. We've all wanted to, trust me." For the record, he says, he's never done heroin or coke while working, "but I've damned sure smoked weed on the job."
He's never had to deal with a flasher, and as Rogen's character chases the naked, jiggling culprit through the mall , Dill actually covered his eyes. Not that I blamed him; this was not the kind of nudity I signed up for.
Overall, we agreed the movie was more disturbing (and a little sad) than funny, similar to a line one of the police officers utters after hiding in the closet to hear Liotta tell Ronnie he isn't going to be a cop. But it wasn't horrible. Dill never saw Paul Blart. I told him he could watch Observe and Report, take out all the "fucks," bouncing male genitals, and date rape, then watch commercials for every major mall store in the country and that would probably suffice.
Still, it beats working.