April 9, 2009

Observe and Report and Ignore the Screaming Warning Signs

Seth Rogen wants to teach you a lesson about movie marketing...

Last year, Jody Hill's cult-classic-before-it-was-even-released The Foot Fist Way came and went without so much as making a ripple in the pop culture consciousness of the American public. It made less than $250,000 at the box office, meaning almost nobody saw Danny McBride in his breakout performance. Fortunately for him, Pineapple Express, Tropic Thunder, and HBO's "Eastbound and Down" (written by Hill) have cemented his status as a comic star on the rise. Unfortunately for Jody Hill, nobody saw The Foot Fist Way, and chances are they won't do so before seeing his new movie, Observe and Report.

This is going to create some serious issues for many people, primarily because the brilliant marketing campaign for Observe and Report - especially the trailer - is selling it like a sequel to Paul Blart: Mall Cop, if not an outright spoof of it. Not surprisingly to those who are familiar with Hill, it's neither, and the references you may have heard to Taxi Driver are accurate. It's a crude, crass, crazy comedy starring a bipolar version of Seth Rogen's character from Pineapple Express, and it will chew up the unsuspecting viewer and violently spit them out.

They'll deserve it, of course, for not heeding the warning signs plastered all over this movie, starting with the name of its writer and director. Jody Hill hasn't sugarcoated anything about his style of humor: "I don’t find much in the comedies I’ve been seeing to get excited about. I’ll watch ‘City of God’ and laugh more...Comedy, for some reason, it’s the most dangerous cinema out there," he said in a recent interview. Danny McBride added, "“That’s what’s going to throw people. I think they’re going to be expecting punch lines, and instead
they’re going to get a dark, crazy, awesome journey.” And the star of the movie, Seth Rogen?: "“It’s my own personal joke, to see how people freak out."

Sorry, Seth, but I suspect the joke is going to end up being on you guys, box-office gold not withstanding. Jody Hill's humor is, well, a little out there, and I highly doubt people will understand that Rogen is trying to make a departure into a different style of comedy. They'll hoot and holler about the drug use and alcoholism and feigned rape and the crazy minorities and the unforgettably graphic nudity and the bone-crushing and bloody violence and the overall tastelessness of everything. But they're not going to get the "joke" or take any meaning from the movie, and most of them will walk out afterward with a huge grin on their face, privately trying to understand how they could have been so hoodwinked.

The only thing worse than thinking that Hollywood treats us moviegoers like oblivious sheep is realizing that we are, in fact, oblivious sheep. We'll see anything, laugh at anything, pay for anything, and come back asking for more, never questioning... anything in the process.


  1. Oooh, Cynical Daniel is in the house! I suspect you're probably dead right, too. We are a people of sheep.

    I haven't seen Foot Fist Way, and I don't know that I'd like it or this one. I kinda want to, but suspect I'd probably just cringe and be annoyed.

    Hated Pineapple Express to the nth degree.

  2. Ha, JB, I was wondering if my..."displeasure" with this movie would come through in this non-review. Yes, this is definitely Cynical D talking. Part of me is still uncomfortable with the fact that so many millions of people paid to watch what was essentially a rerelease of The Fast and the Furious last week. Can we hope for nothing better, as discussed at LiC?

    Anyway, there was actually a lot that I could have found funny in this movie, but the most of the humor that appeals to me was buried under heavy loads of awkwardly serious drama, some really idiotic writing (a cussing exchange between Rogen and a kiosk sales guy tested my patience beyond what I thought was possible), and blood/vomit/nudity gags. However, I understand that sends many other people rolling down the aisle in fits of laughter.

    It's worth mentioning that like you, I also disliked Pineapple Express. My guess is that the haters and lovers of that movie will line up in the exact same place with Observe and Report.

  3. I'll be stunned if I don't like Observe and Report. Hill does dark comedy better then anyone today, and I love his style of attacking the "heroes" of his projects.

    Also, Eastbound and Down is pure genius. Best show on TV. Well, until Mad Men gets back on the air.

  4. Yeah, McBride actually mentions the "deluded, self-important antiheroes" thing in the NYT interview: "I’ve definitely met my fair share of them in Los Angeles, and I think me and Jody have worked for our fair share of them, he said. We just have more experience with the regional variety."

    Anyway, I think what be funnier than the movie to me is watching the reactions of the people who are blindsided by it.

    I don't have HBO and haven't seen Eastbound, but my friends rave about it. Considering it's about baseball and also stars McBride (who I like more and more with each movie, including Observe and Report) and Ferrell, my guess is I would find more to like than dislike.

  5. I agree that a lot of people are going to get blindsided by the film. The red band trailer makes it pretty clear what kind of film it is, but otherwise all the marketing makes it look like more of a raunchier version of Paul Blart.

    And you need to see Eastbound and Down. Right. Now. It is truly a revelatory experience. Think John Rocker coaching middle school gym class. But awesomer.

  6. Wow, John Rocker. Chances are, he probably IS coaching middle school gym class these days, and I doubt it's very awesome for those students.


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