Imagine Martin Scorsese directing a modern version of "The Three Stooges." It would likely have "Goodfellas" gore as Moe pokes Curly in the eyes or sticks a metal mountain-climbing spike up Larry's nostril. Substituting cartoon slapstick with graphic violence is not funny.
This is essentially what filmmaker Jody Hill has done in "Observe and Report." The supposedly comic update of Scorsese's "Taxi Driver" stars Seth Rogen in the Robert De Niro-disturbed-vigilante-Travis Bickle role.
Slipping into darker waters from his usual teddy-bear stoner persona ("Knocked Up," "The 40-Year-Old Virgin"), Rogen is mall cop/security chief Ronnie Barnhardt, a brutal bully lording over a suburban shopping scene, with delusions of becoming a real policeman. He is so nasty that one co-worker, Saddamn (Aziz Ansari), has a restraining order against him.
His path to police heaven is the apprehension of a serial flasher (Randy Gambill), plaguing the patrons of the mall and its parking lot. Such a coup would also score points with his love obsession, Brandi (Anna Faris of "The House Bunny" fame), whom he ogles in her cosmetics clerk job, much the way De Niro's Bickle pined over Cybil Shepherd's unattainable blond.
Ronnie's main obstacle is Detective Harrison (Ray Liotta), on the flasher case and without need of Ronnie's moronic crime fighting methods. After a brief return to his trademark stoner habits, courtesy of a druggy colleague (Michael Peña), Rogen reinvents himself as the full-blown Bickle avenger, taking on the world, including the real cops. After an orgy of idiotic violence, he guns down an unarmed pervert and is crowned mall hero.
If there's humor here, maybe it will be found in the recently announced remake of "The Three Stooges," featuring Jim Carrey ("Curly"), Sean Penn ("Larry") and Benicio Del Toro ("Moe"). With Scorsese as director, it could be a laugh riot.