Review of Observe and Report

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Seth Rogen stars as Ronnie Barnhardt, a bipolar mall security guard whose determined to catch the person responsible for flashing his crush (Anna Faris) as well as several other people. The 2009 black comedy also stars Ray Liotta, Michael Peña and Aziz Ansari.
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Movie Review: "Observe and Report"

-- Rating: R (pervasive language, graphic nudity, drug use, sexual content, and violence)
Length: 86 minutes
Release date: Apr. 10, 2009
Directed by: Jody Hill
Genre: Comedy/Crime/Drama

The mall security guy seems to be the go-to subject matter for 2009. "Observe and Report" follows "Paul Blart Mall Cop" in the comedy arena, but the two movies couldn't be more different. The most prominent dissimilarity is the material. You can take the whole family to see Paul Blart in action, but Seth Rogen's "Observe and Report" is strictly for adult fans of dark comedy. The movie combines a bizarrely behaved mall security guard with a flasher and an overzealous police detective, creating many laughs and never lacking in entertainment.

Ronnie (Seth Rogen) is the megalomaniac, bipolar mall cop who aspires to join the police force. He has applied but doesn't ever qualify. In fact, Ronnie's psych evaluation is one that will make anyone in the audience howl. However, that doesn't stop Ronnie's ambitions. He is also a pervert whose antics are on a par with the flasher who roams the mall exposing himself to shoppers and shop keepers. Ronnie's partner in crime, Dennis (Michael Peña), only validates Ronnie's behavior. The two men somehow keep the mall safe until eventually the flasher gets out of control.

The police are called in to help. Detective Harrison (Ray Liotta) tries his best to catch the flasher while trying to prevent Ronnie from causing more harm to himself and the mall. He discovers that Ronnie believes he is doing police work, despite his bumbling ineffective results. In Ronnie's small mind, he is a by-the-book man of law. To the detective, he is a threat to the safety of the people who visit the mall each day.

The disconnect between reality and the inner Ronnie is the basis for much of the humor in "Observe and Report." Ronnie believes he is being effective, but the audience sees him fumble one thing after another. His attraction to Brandi (Anna Faris) is another factor that shows up Ronnie's disassociation with reality. What Ronnie sees as a budding romance is actually an attractive girl having pity on a dopey guy. When she ingests alcohol and drugs, she is amenable to almost anything in her half-conscious state. To Ronnie, this is love.

The audience will soon identify Ronnie as a pivotal character in the film; he seems to be both hero and anti-hero. In fact, director and writer Jody Hill sets Ronnie up to play both roles in the film as he works toward saving the mall from the flasher. However, Hill expertly sets up the character to unintentionally blunder into the roles. It seems that Ronnie's character is supposed to be the clueless guy who believes he is clued in to the way the world works. In truth, this disconnection is the crux of the character and the jokes that result from his antics.

The jokes in the movie are often at Ronnie's expense and sometimes uncomfortable. At other times, the comedy is pushed to a limit that would have anyone questioning whether it is truly funny or pathetic. That is the dark genius of "Observe and Report." Nothing is off limits when it comes to the basis for the jokes. Rogen and Hill push the boundaries as far as they can, often with a satisfying result. The scene where Ronnie takes advantage of the doped-up Brandi is indeed dark comedy.

"Observe and Report" pushes the envelope farther than any movie that Rogen has played in to date. The dark humor in the film, covering some very controversial topics, is easy to follow. At times, the audience will find themselves rooting for Ronnie, yet in the next scene wanting to throttle him. Throughout the action, Hill's script never lags, keeping the audience engaged, entertained and laughing with or at the main character. The flasher in "Observe and Report" may be the focus of everyone's attention onscreen, but everyone off-screen will be watching and laughing at Rogen's every move.

Rating: 3 out of 5