Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Paul Blart: Mall Cop vs. Observe and Report

Hey gang, I just thought I'd change things up a bit and write a piece on two ridiculous movies that I like watching over and over again 'til I've practically memorized every line in them to the point where I'm in immediate need of professional help. So instead of forking over a year's work of wages to get hooked on some over-the-counter and potentially highly dependent laboratory pharmaceutical, I thought it would be best to do another versus style blog piece on the similarities, or pros and cons (if you will) between the sensation you get from watching Paul Blart Mall Cop versus the reaction you get out of watching Observe and Report. In a nutshell, it's kind of like whiskey and soda---not mixed together, of course, but rather taken in short visual installments. I don't recommend actually paying attention to either of these movies, because well... there's nothing to learn out of them, other than how to make a fundamentally high grossing income from shooting a movie in the form of a tried and tested dick and far joke formula that never ceases to amaze the likes of the general public. It's like celluloid opium for the masses, I tells yah! And here's my personal toke, no--- take on these two movies.

If you like watching a movie that's silly, with an almost Disney like vibe, it's wise to choose Paul Blart, however... if that's a little too tame for you, I'd stick with Observe and Report, which has more of an adult college humor vibe to it all. But here's the clincher folks. These two films are basically the same, and I'm not talking about the fact that they both center around two distinct hapless and almost half witted/dimwitted security guards, but there's a lot more to it than that. So I've taken the liberty of compiling a list of strange similarities that I've observed myself... and am reporting for that matter! Sorry for the cheesy pun, but let's get to it.

Beginning with the most obvious one, take a gander at the movie posters below. Notice how they both include a close up of the protagonist (or would be, and sometimes unlikely hero) of the picture. Maybe there's not much to go on there, but I just thought it was highly coincidental that these particular movie posters are relatively the same; in that both of the principal roles revolve around security guards that are engaged in the same exact job (i.e. guarding a shopping mall). The only difference of course is that Ronnie is head of security, while Paul is just a regular underling. And the odd part is that Ronnie's uniform matches the rest of the security guards that work for him. Usually the head of security wears a white uniform, like Paul does! Go figure... can anyone please get a technical consultant more involved on these sets?!?

And then there's another little tidbit which seems to have lost its footing in reality. And that is security guards carrying guns in Observe and Report. Normally one would need a G license to handle those sort of things, which would imply taking some sort of psychological evaluation or general competency test. And since Ronnie is bipolar (a near borderline delusional here, folks) it only baffles the mind as to how this yokel got his hands on that type of license in the first place! The fact that got fired and managed to make his way to the gun locker (which is in and of itself yet another typical example of pure Hollywood bullshit) is beyond absurd, because normally one would have to retire any and all standard issued weapons that their security outfit provides them with (if any) upon getting fired. And even still, it's not up to the security department to be issuing those types of things in the first place, because it can very well imply a liability. I mean, let's face it, we've already got a psycho handling a gun on our hands over here, so what else do you need?!? And more importantly... they're not cops!!! They're freakin' security guards! This I find very comical because it's quite a farce in and of itself. Then again... the twins (i.e. two of Ronnie's subordinates, and not his ding-a-ling) did say that it would be cool "if" they could be outfitted with these types of things. And a little later in the film, we get to be treated to the site of Ronnie with a taser; to which I ask... what kind of security outfit is this anyways? And on that note... both principal characters seem to have something wrong going for them, in as far as their chemical makeup is concerned. As mentioned before, Ronnie is bi-polar and takes medication for his symptoms (which he shares with his infatuation... kind of makes you wonder how he doesn't lose his job doing this, huh?) while Paul Blart suffers from hypoglycemia (i.e. lack of sugar intake) and resorts to eating sources of sugar coated nourishment for his ailment (such as a lollipop that's been stuck to the floor and covered with what appears to be cigarette stubs) just so he can get up and get back in the swing of things.

Next we have the love interests for each picture. Upon seeing Paul Blart for the first time, I could have sworn that the actress who played the role of Amy (Blart's love interest/infatuation/what have you) was actually Anna Faris, but then I realized it wasn't, after doing a second take and wondering if it was or if it wasn't. Anyways, I was evidently mistaken, since the role was actually played by actress Jayma Mays. So aside from there being a love interest (i.e. someone who would actually care for these two big palookas) in each film, both of them look almost identical. Maybe they were cloned in some kind of Hollywood test tube facility. Who knows?

Paul Blart: Mall Cop and Observe and Report Lead Actress Images

Of course, Anna is not really Ronnie Barnhardt's (that's the Seth Rogen's character in Observe and Report, by the way) primary love interest, because this slut (that is her character Brandi and not the actress herself! Duh!) will bang just about anybody. And on that note, Paul Blart and Ronnie Barnhardt both have similar last names, which both end in the same pronounceable syllable (i.e. art). And if you take away their last names, you end up with Paul and Ron, which is coincidentally also the name of two popular local disc jockeys (that is, Paul & Young Ron). It's a Hollywood cloning conspiracy I tells yah!

Well, actually Anna is the first love interest, but the film also featured a great performance by Collette Wolfe (just watch the scene where she breaks down in tears which was absolutely the most convincing tear jerker of a performance that this fool here has ever had the pleasure of witnessing!). Her role is the typical "Oh, I didn't see you there" overlooked love interest/surrogate mother of a lover, and she plays the part very well. It's a shame this film didn't pick up any sort of academy nomination or award for that matter! I definitely would've cast my vote for her. And why is she crying? Because Paton Oswalt (i.e. Spence Olchin in King of Queens, which was practically Kevin James' launching pad for his acting career) torments her at her place of work due to the cast on her leg, which is brought on by some sort of chemical deficiency. Where do they come up with these things anyways?

Then of course, there's the differences (yet still notable similarities to a degree of patheticness) between each of these security guard's modes of transport. On the one hand, you have Paul Blart riding about all over the place in his segway, while Ronnie drives around in a golf cart, which could probably pass for a segway one of these days, but for the time being it's just an electric golf cart; plain and simple. The closest thing resembling this thing is a two-seater segway, however the one in the film has four wheels, which makes it a golf cart. So basically it's all just a matter of being close... but still no cigar! Both of these modes of transport have their share of almost equal screen time in the two films, but the segway is featured a little more prominently (specifically in Blart's online dating video sample!). Coincidentally, each of the films feature a sequence where the main protagonists are taking their love interest out for a spin with them, of course Jayma's character Amy is a little less reluctant to go on a ride than Anna's character Brandi is.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop and Observe and Report Riding Images

Then of course, you have a couple of other similarities which may or may not be hard to spot, depending on how read up you are on your IMDB movie trivia. Both films feature a pair of brothers sharing some acting duties. In the case of Observe And Report, it's more obvious since you can easily see a pair of identical twins (no it's not a digital camera trick) playing the part of Ronnie's security team, while in Paul Blart, you see Kevin James' real life brother Gary Valentine (who played the part of his cousin in King of Queens) doing a cameo of a highly deluded Karaoke singer with a weird looking set of receding hippie hair on him. Bang up job on the makeup department there! I didn't even know it was him the first time I saw this film!

Then there's the (what I can only refer to as Hollywood's idea of affirmative action) part of the film that decides that it's necessary to include at least two actors of Indian decent for the film, just so the American audience can use them as an excuse to make fun of, for some hitherto unbeknownst and highly boneheaded line of reasoning. In Observe and Report we get to see Aziz Ansari get attacked by Seth Rogen's character, for no apparent reason, other than the fact that the two hate each other due to what can only be a stereotypical racial profiling excuse on Ronnie's part. But I must say that the line "Fuck you Ronnie, nice hat, you stupid motherfucker!" during the undercover sequence was without a doubt one of the funniest lines from that movie. That and Aziz's character getting punched in the face for no apparent reason whatsoever other than he was simply in the way; in the wrong place, at the right time, was also just satirically brilliant on that blatant scripting of blatant dick and fart jokes level. Then you had the other actor Eddie Rouse (which sort of looked like a reincarnation of Sammy Davis Jr.) getting tazered, which was a sad display of what idiots in authority can do to the innocent, but then again... it's the poignancy of this particular film which I liked the most. It's blatant honesty and lack of consideration for the actual safety of fellow human beings is what makes Observe and Report the better laugh riot; in short... it's a a hell of a lot less of a mile's worth of bullshit, and a hell of a lot more casually dramatic realism. I think if I had to buy into the concept of choosing between would be terrorists/heist robbers that ride skateboards and bicycles and a streaker terrorizing random women in a public mall and an inside criminal (who turned out to be one of the security team's own lieutenants) I'd probably go with the latter because it's seemingly more realistic.

Paul Blart of course, featured Adhir Kalyan (of Aliens in America fame) as the stalkerish boyfriend of the daughter of one of Blart's drinking buddies, played by Erick Alvari (of the two or three? minutes to nuke a perfect burrito Encino Man fame). I'm still trying to figure out how they become all buddy-buddy so quickly (and over the phone, no less), especially if you consider the premise of their first encounter over the phone; which was basically the typical "What the fuck are you doing with my girl's phone?" sort of plot element. I guess it must have been one of those deleted scenes which ended up on the cutting room floor and lost in a vault somewhere.

Another coincidence that I've noticed between these two films is that each of the film's protagonists have to reckon with their share of unruly superiors, or at least people in a position that are of a higher authority than they are. For example, in Observe and Report, you have Ray Liotta playing Detective Harrison who's minute long explosive tirade on Ronnie; with the old school cop phrase: "'re a fuckin' faggot!" was just priceless! And in Paul Blart, you have a more of co-worker being an asshole when you (that is, the hapless protagonist of this film) needed it the least, as performed by Allen Covert. Aside from that coincidence, both films also feature relationships between the lead roles and their mother figures. In Paul Blart, you have Shirley Knight playing it straight with her role as momma Blart, while in Observe and Report, the audience gets treated to a highly dysfunctional (and usually passed out on the living room floor) booze hound that is Ronnie's mother, as portrayed by Celia Weston. I tend to prefer the latter's performance because as fucked up as it is, one can't help but to laugh out loud at the general deterioration of this character on the screen. Don't get me wrong, I like Paul Blart too, but it was just too tame as compared to Observe and Report.

The other bitchin' part about Observe and Report that sold me more than Paul Blart was its soundtrack. It was great to watch up to the part where Ronnie and Brandi hook up for the first time, just to get treated to the song "Brain" by the band The Action (note: play the video below...) And who can forget the take a walk on the dark side sequence that Ronnie's lieutenant (2nd in command)/temporary partner-in-crime Dennis (as portrayed by Michael Peña who wears a haircut that eerily resembles a Welcome Back Kotter star Gabe Kaplan...with a tan, that is!) leads him into? Just listening to The Yardbirds in a movie, performing "Over, Under, Sideways, Down" is downright Kool and the Gang in my book. And who can forget the director's nod to Flash Gordon's "The Hero" theme (as performed by Queen) during the hilariously funny confrontation between Ronnie and the local law enforcement? I mean, the guy practically took out the whole army of pigs all by himself... and with a flashlight, no doubt!

I guess what really makes a good film work in the end is its plot; and in order to have a good plot, you need clever writers, and more importantly the right actors to portray the film's roles. Paul Blart seems to be one of those movies that you can laugh out aloud, but only in short temporary bursts, because it tends to be more silly; an almost G rated comedy, to say the least. I mean, come on! A Yellow Kitty band aid?!? That's just cutesy humor, whereas in Observe and Report you're treated to a full frontal male nudity shot (and in slow motion out of all things!) that just begs the question--- What in the fuck were the producers smoking when they agreed to film this and make it available for theatrical release?!? It just boggles the mind, really... but it's hysterical. And the fact that the streaker's mad dash across the mall is punctuated by a highly unexpected gun shot to the chest area (oh I'm sorry... I forgot to say SPOILER ALERT!) is completely unexpected. And that, my friends, is what makes a good film worthwhile in my book.

Where Paul Blart falls short is it's face of a plot device. I mean, out of all the places that a group of highly skilled bank robbers (or possibly even BMX extreme sports rejects) can hit... why a mall? These are thieves; their primary concern with life is stealing, not kidnapping and extortion. Pretty farfetched, but okay, I suppose. Now Observe and Report on the other hand, has a stronger foothold in reality. Nude streaker terrorizing (if you can call showing off your godly physique to any immediate stranger a terrorist activity) the mall, that's really a possibility. Just how long he can get away with it, is kind of sketchy. But still, it's definitely a lot more believable. And the fact that there was an inside job, involving one of the security guards (Oops! There I go again... I'm sorry; SPOILER ALERT!) is very realistic. This movie makes no excuses and it is what it is. Totally funny if you have a penchant for understanding a highly dysfunctional comedy. Just the scenes where Seth Rogen's character Ronnie completely breaks the silence and launches into the poignant and laconic universal salute of "FUCK YOU!" is priceless and very carefully measured. And let's not forget the exchange between him and Aziz's character, which was an ode to yet another one of my favorite comedic (and highly dysfunctional in its own right) classics Bad Santa, during the negotiation scene between Tony Cox and the late great Bernie Mac. Simply put, just substitute the words "fuck you!" for "half" and you've got a gem on your hands there, my friends! Now that I think about it, Paul Blart did feature an homage to Bruce Willis' trapped in an air vent scene in Die Hard. So I guess that's yet another similarity right then and there, folks! In that both films contain some sort of homage to other movies.

So what's left? Oh yes, I've heard there are rumors of a potential sequel to Paul Blart. It kind of figures as such, when you consider that Happy Madison Productions is notorious for making films that are highly grossing office blockbusters. What would be cool is that if they could work out some sort of deal and pit these two characters against each other somehow. That would really be the kind of project that would be really worthwhile to see. Can you just imagine Paul Blart squaring off against Ronnie Barnhardt? That would be awesome... So until next time, I'll leave you with this highly concocted visual aid just to get you started on the laughter that will most likely be sure to ensue soon enough...

Paul Blart: Mall Cop Versus Observe and Report Image

This has been P.S. Elliott (AKA: his holiness of wholesomeness Dr. Gonzo XXVII) reporting for the disassociated press, tha is... The Gnoyze Guitar Mods & More Web Blog.

P.S. I also forgot to mention that both films featured hilarious sequences with the main protagonists applying for the police force... so much so in fact, that they both have to endure a set of challenges along them standard issue police endurance test type obstacle courses.

Furthermore, both films also feature a first date between the protagonists and their love interest. While Ronnie technically scored on the first date (well...sort of, considering Brandi's state of heavily medicated inebriation and all!) and Paul Blart blew it by royally fucking up Karaoke night for everybody within earshot... just who actually won in the end is subject to conjecture; since Paul does get married and Ronnie just gets the secondary love interest. Oops! There I go again! SPOILER ALERT! How long the two of them will last together, however, is anybody's guess... considering that Nell is one of them born again virgin nutbags and all that jazz.

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