If one were to interpret this movie literally, as just the story of fat, vulgar, lunatick mall rent-a-cop Ronnie utterly failing to function rationally in society (and likewise for his bizarre associates and his drunkard mother), one would become quickly irritated with the tedious crudity and obscene humor of this 21st century *screwball* comedy.
But if one can accept this grotesque farce as a parable of our contemporary American times, one can appreciate its apocalyptic take on the vanishing American Dream. Set in the mall, the retailverse is the perfect microcosm of materialist America, and Ronnie, therefore, stands as the American Everyman, chasing a Dream he can never catch, and for which he is not fit.
Unstable Ronnie answers the trivial frustrations of his mall patrol with potty mouth profanity and violence, and thus serves also as a larger symbol of the irrational American empire, an empire unable to process the complexities of other cultures (this is allegorized in Observe And Report in the subplot involving Ronnie’s personal war with a Middle Eastern mall merchant), only able to lash out with its military, seeking to solve all the empire’s problems (real and imagined) through violence.
The supporting characters are similarly archetypes of ruined Americans. There is Brandi, the oblivious cosmetics counter slut, who thinks nothing of exposing most of her young white flesh in tiny tight skirts and titty revealing tops, yet who then is somehow scandalized by a male flasher who trolls the mall.
Observe And Report also features a supposed *good* girl, Nell, who works at the mall pastry shop. She’s presented as one of America’s vague new megachurch *Christians,* a reformed tramp who fancies herself a *born-again virgin.* Yet just as American Christendom rejects Christ’s call to resist not evil, and to love, bless, pray for and do good to them that hate you by condoning America’s endless wars, *Christian* Nell rejects the Savior’s teachings as she embraces Ronnie’s brutal assault on her manager, a Napoleonic dimwit who had been cruelly teasing her.
Of course, I may be guilty of reading too much into Observe And Report. It may simply be just a cinematic exercise in the dumb and the coarse, and in that regard, the natural fruit of America’s rotten culture.
One other fellow who seems perplexed as to how to interpret Observe And Report is the film’s supporting actor, Ray Liotta, who plays Ronnie’s real cop foil. Liotta appears befuddled in most of his scenes, and unsure whether to go for the broad laughs of a stupid comedy, or play it more subtle, as if in a dark satire, so he stumbles dumbfounded throughout most of the picture.
Celluloid garbage of no redeeming social value? Or blistering parable of decaying America? Or, perhaps, one and the same?
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