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seth rogen

Observe and Report was supposed to be the antithesis of Paul Blart: Mall Cop, a product of the Happy Madison machine that goes for cheap laughs and not much substance. However, somewhere along the line Report turned itself into what it never wanted to be, a below average comedy, stooping to cheap, shock thrills to get a laugh, and never really powering up as a comedy. The movie trolls along for just over 90 minutes, throws a few laughs at you, you’ll smile a few more times, but it ultimately falls flat.

With the amount of talent present in this production its really surprising to see the end result fail so hard. Seth Rogen, who’s in just about everything these days, really misses here as the law enforcement obsesses Ronnie Barnhardt who’s delusional nature makes the character almost unlikable for the entire runtime of the film. Just when you think he might finally catch on to how strong he’s coming on, he completely loses it. The jokes that get the most laughs were so played out in the trailers that the theater was completely silent when they finally came up.

It isn’t just Rogen who lays an egg here, the normally charming and impeccable Anna Faris is completely wasted as Brandi the make-up girl. Ray Liotta, taking a stab at comedy, can’t seem to figure out any sort of cohesive timing for the funny lines he’s suppose to deliver. The supporting cast is a collection of one-note, one-joke caricatures that we’ve seen time and time again to the point they aren’t funny anymore.

The weak story only adds to the even weaker whole of the script. When Barnhardt becomes obsessed with catching a flasher at the mall he patrols he eventually takes a magical journey of blaming everyone of ethnicity, then attempting to be a police officer, mockingly blow away a psychiatrist with an invisible shotgun, take down five drug dealers, and finally fall from grace, get his redemption, and ride off into the sunset in a golf cart. The film as a whole is really paint-by-the-numbers at its best, and derivative at its worst.

Again, its incredibly surprising to see such talent collected and distilled into a cheap comedy you expect to see late-night on TBS. Maybe the explosion of Paul Blart earlier in the year turned people off to a mall cop comedy, or maybe it was Observe and Report‘s own undoing by simply not being good enough to run with the big boys, but after the movie is over you just kind of want to completely forget it ever existed.

Since the unlikely success of Harold and Kumar the sub-genre of stoner-action-comedy-adventure has really taken off. Of course movies like this are nothing new in Hollywood, but getting the target audience off the couch and away from the substances that make them the target audience for two hours is sometimes harder to manage. All you need is some clever marketing, the guys who wrote Superbad, and the genre’s new “it” boy Seth Rogen to make a successful film. It doesn’t hurt Judd Apatow is along for the ride as a producer and the always excellent, although drastically underused here, Gary Cole makes an appearance.

Pineapple Express, through its thinly laced plot, excels at making you laugh more often than note, however your level of enjoyment figures on how well you “get” the culture of habitual weed smokers and what they might find funny, or if you just like to see stone people stumble around like, well, stoned idiots. Rogen and fellow Apatow-alum James Franco star as Dale and Saul, respectively, a buyer and a dealer on the run from an even bigger deal (Cole’s Ted) after Dale witnesses Ted blowing a guy’s head off.

The movie’s namesake comes from a particular strand of plant that, leads Ted back to a mid-level man, Red (Danny R. McBride), whom he sold it to, and where it went from there. Ted sends a couple of hit men after Dale and Saul and Red flip flops sides more times than a politician up until the movie’s explosive finale.

As always Rogen is excellent here, his oafishness and chubby guy persona brings a certain likeability to him, even in some of the smallest roles. Everyone remembers how he stole the show in The 40 Year old Virgin and seemingly made getting married to Katherine Heigl manageable (in real life I doubt this is possible). Franco, late of the Spider-Man franchise, grows his hair out and puts on the dumbest face possible in the role of Saul a clichéd example of why you shouldn’t do drugs and try to do any thing that requires a quarter of your brain. Most of the film’s best moments come at the expense of his limited intellect.

The cast is rounded out by the aforementioned Cole who is apt to play the bad guy but is underutilized and underdeveloped with the script, written by Rogen and partner Even Goldberg, focusing more on Dale and Saul than anything else. The chemistry between Rogen and Franco is top notch, however, and the third wheel of the scheming McBride completes the ensemble in the same way Christopher Mintz-Plasse McLovin’ augmented Superbad.

The film, however, isn’t able to stand up completely under the weight of its hook, a couple of high guys know too much and have some bad guys after them, the opening segment, featuring the hilarious Bill Hader ties in well to the ending of the film 70 years later, but without the film’s star power draw, there wouldn’t be much to it but smoke billowing out from under the door.

Knocked Up has been described as an ‘instant classic’ in the comedy genre and there’s little to sway me in agreeing with that assertion whole-heartedly. Writer and director Judd Apatow has crafted such a masterful mesh up of the slacker/stoner comedy and infused it with elements from romantic comedies and a big helping of heart that you really feel for the characters and you really, really want to see the movie again after the first viewing.

The film stars Seth Rogen as Ben Stone and the lovely Katherine Heigl as Alison Scott a fictional reporter at E! who gets impregnated by Stone after a one night stand. Alison confronts Ben a few months after their hook-up to reveal the news. Over the course of the film the two fight, bicker, and seemingly can’t get along, but they also fall in love, and while the Hollywood ending is usually frowned upon by this establishment, it seems justified here.

One of Apatow’s greatest abilities is to not only focus on the leads in his movies but also write, big, convincing parts for the supporting cast as well. Here we have Paul Rudd and Apatow’s wife Leslie Mann as a married couple looking for a connection. Alison uses their troubled relationship to picture how she and Ben would end up, this causes a bit of turmoil in their relationship, but by the end of the movie, even the supporting B-storyline has been wrapped up nicely.

In opposition of most comedies, the jokes aren’t front-loaded into the film, Knocked Up is consistently funny with not just belly laughs, but just the little things that make you only chuckle, but still feel as though you are watching a comedy past the one hour mark. Ben’s collection of wayward friends, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Martin Starr, and Jason Segel, provide enough scene stealing moments and ad-libbed dialog to warrant their own movie, here they’re utilized just enough to be hilarious without grating on your nerves.

Not a lot has been said about Heigl and her performance. Coming from the soapy Grey’s Anatomy hasn’t afforded her many opportunities for comedy work, but she performs admirably her, not just relying on her good looks to stream through the movie. She does a great job of personifying Alison as a twentysomething moving up the corporate ladder only to be thrown through a loop.

The real star of the show is Seth Rogen, easily the funniest supporting character in Apatow’s The 40-Year-Old Virgin, he’s elevated to leading man status her and owns the show. Why he has been passed up for so long will never be certain, but his celebrity stock certainly went up over the weekend with box office numbers and his excellent performance.

As bold as it is to say, Knocked Up could be better than The 40-Year-Old Virgin in many respects, but that’s going to rely on personal opinion more than anything else. What matters most is everything in this film is clear, concise, and clips along through its two-hour runtime providing a more than satisfying beginning, middle, and end. What recent movies can you say that about?