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Overall Rating
3.52

Awesome: 28.13%
Worth A Look40.63%
Average: 3.13%
Pretty Bad: 10.94%
Total Crap: 17.19%

7 reviews, 22 user ratings


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Observe and Report
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by Erik Childress

"Listen You Screwheads. Ronnie Barnhardt Is On The Clock"
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2009 SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST FILM FESTIVAL: When Jim Carrey was at the peak of his popularity, he decided to take his physical goofiness to another side. That film turned out to be The Cable Guy (directed by a still unpeaked Ben Stiller), one that got sidetracked early by the enormous price tag paid to Carrey and then railroaded by the public and some critics who found the film to be unnormally dark. Audiences didnít know what to make of it. They wanted to like Carrey and laugh at his manic antics, not watch him spiral into a stalking psychopath that made them uncomfortable. Now, itís Seth Rogenís turn. When not lending his vocal stylings to any number of family films, Rogen has become one of the most reliable comic actors in film since his work in The 40 Year-Old Virgin and, thanks to turns, in Knocked Up, Superbad and Pineapple Express one of the more bankable. A dark part of myself canít wait to see how his fans are going to react to his character in Observe and Report, one of the ballsier comedies to come from a big studio in some time thatís likely going to tear at audienceís expectations but, hopefully, will have them appreciating its creators even more.

Rogen plays Ronnie Barnhardt, head of mall security for your typical shopping center. Attention is brought to his little domain when a flasher, of all things, begins terrorizing patrons in the parking lot. One of his victims is cosmetics counter gal, Brandi (Anna Faris), a self-centered twit that Ronnie happens to be infatuated with. Intent on solving the ďcaseĒ himself, Ronnie knocks down any of the professionalism that Detective Harrison (Ray Liotta) brings to the conversation, picking out suspects by random and agitating the situation at every turn. Backed by the loyal Dennis (Michael Pena) and the Yuan twins (John & Matt Yuen), Ronnie will have nobody messing with his mall even as a few cracks in his armor begin to show.

When heís not patrolling his mall castle or taking target practice, Ronnie is getting free coffee from the adoring Nell (Collette Wolfe), perched behind her counter in a wheelchair thanks to a calcium deficiency. Heís too blinded by his obsession with Brandi to realize Nell is sweet on him, subconsciously probably following the guidelines that all men want a woman just like their mother. Which in Ronnieís case is a drunken homebody (Celia Weston) that he still lives with and is still very loved by despite her making no bones about admitting that heís the cause for his father leaving. The most excitement this mall has probably seen in years reawakens Ronnieís desire to be a real police officer. If only he can pass the physical, psychological and other tests by his new nemesis which might prove increasingly difficult if he continues to stay off his medication.

And thatís really the key then, isnít it? We recognize thereís a unstableness just lurking beneath Ronnieís surface. You can see it in the face that always has the look of a year-long constipation and even the clothes he wears that appear just ready to burst with a Hulk-like rage if someone makes the wrong move. The only time Ronnie ever looks comfortable is when heís in a sweat suit. And sweating you may be doing throughout the back half of Observe and Report as you await the next inappropriate interaction he has or just how far he is going to take his punishment to those that stand in his way. All of this is done with a comic eye, of course, but once you accept that Ronnie is capable of breaking a bone through someoneís arm you have to be on your toes that this is not your everyday, average goofball comedy.

Writer/director Jody Hill also created The Foot Fist Way, a little Sundance film that I was a fan of back in 2006 that helped introduce Danny McBride to the cadre of comic talent dominating the best comedies today. As Hillís film made the rounds and attracted the attention of Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, it led to the creation of one of the funniest shows currently on television, Eastbound & Down (which just ended its brilliant first 6-episode run on HBO). Like both Eastbound and The Foot Fist Way, Observe and Report is rooted within an contentious protagonist seeking redemption that never makes it easy on us to root for him. Not in the way that Ferrellís Ron Burgundy and Ricky Bobby were likable unlikables either. Hitchcock once said that audiences will appreciate any character thatís good at their job. Ronnie is certainly gung-ho about his, but dedication and excellence are two very different beasts and its very clear that while he is 110% committed, he really isnít very cut out for investigation. At times things get so rough you may see yourself shifting loyalties over to Liottaís detective just to see how a professional does things.

Thereís a perfectly understood connection the film makes with the audience during a moment when a bit of prankish eavesdropping becomes a truth that is equal parts comic and harsh. Hill and his cast walk this very thin tightrope grounded through all 85 minutes of the film and gladly pounce their left and right feet off to either side. So much of this rests on Rogenís shoulders whom we know can be subversively funny with the best of them and had some nice tender moments in Knocked Up, but here displays some wonderful range in what may easily be classified as his best performance to date. The temptation to just let it all loose would be in the back of any actorís mind, but Rogen maintains his exaggerated steely-eyed demeanor on the job and projects a sincere vulnerability in his scenes at home and with Nell as he contemplates the hole of his future staring back at him; imperative moments that keep the audience on the right side of the simplistic psycho labeling. The greatest bit of uncomfortable silence you may hear in a theater all year is in the culmination of Ronnie & Brandiís date. And just as you may be ready to bail on Ronnie for good, the moment is broken up and saved by another perfect bit of timing by the amazing Anna Faris. You can let out a ďwhewĒ and then move on to the next uncomfortable Ronnie decision.

Rogen & Faris, Michael Penaís hysterically bizarro turn and Colette Wolfeís humanistic touch all add up to making Observe & Report a rollercoaster of comedic stylings, the likes which youíre certainly not used to handling, let alone appreciating of late. As one who has seen enough dark oddities over the year, I still found myself pleasantly shocked at the instances of violence and the challenge of accepting Ronnie as our hero Ė in our head as well as his own. Shaun of the Dead and Blades of Glory have certainly made their play to have the best use of Queen on their soundtracks since the days of Iron Eagle and Highlander, but whomever came up with the idea for the particular song used during the climactic showdown deserves a handshake, a high five and is owed a round of drinks. Sure, the title of that song is certainly dead on target but by that point you should be expecting nothing less of Observe and Report or even yourself when you catch your theater neighbors applauding the filmís final comuppance and looking forward to Jody Hillís next bit of beautiful insanity.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=18073&reviewer=198
originally posted: 04/10/09 14:00:00
[printer] printer-friendly format  
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2009 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

6/12/11 Merle It was not too bad but could have been made better. 3 stars
5/26/11 Marsha Dimes Unmitigated Schlock! 1 stars
4/08/11 Josie Cotton is a goddess An underrated black-comedy that satires the stupidity of mindless machoism 5 stars
5/15/10 Dan Like a weird, violent Napoleon Dynamite. 4 stars
3/15/10 mr.mike Paul Blart becomes Travis Bickle. It doesn't work. 2 stars
3/09/10 Chocha Apretada Deelish, honey! 1 stars
1/11/10 Tekin A brilliant film.Dark disturbing funny sad take on the avarage man's quest for glory. 5 stars
9/25/09 blah really stupid, poorly put together movie. very disappointing 1 stars
6/05/09 Meredith Harshaw Nearest thing to a "good bad movie" since DUDE, WHERE IS MY CAR. 3 stars
5/06/09 Barns Loved it, miles ahead of the brainless "Mall Cop" 5 stars
4/19/09 Panocha.de.la.Vaca How ugly is Seth Rogen....UGGGGGGGGGLY! 1 stars
4/19/09 belike I think anyone who can relate to ronnies character will appreciate this film. 5 stars
4/18/09 chief boot knocka ''I use tasers and mace, fuck you!'' - great fucking movie. 5 stars
4/18/09 Kong Kardashian It wuz da bomb...Seth can boff me ne time! 4 stars
4/16/09 Ju Mex Perfect. 5 stars
4/15/09 Diarrhea Slitz What has happened to Anna Faris' face? She looks OLD! 1 stars
4/14/09 Apollo Such a horrible, stupid, waste of film. I hated it. 1 stars
4/14/09 PAUL SHORTT A COMEDY SO DARK YOU HAVE TO TURN THE HOUSE LIGHTS ON TO SEE THE SCREEN 1 stars
4/14/09 Aesop This is like "Mall Cop", only less funny. Can we award negative stars?? 1 stars
4/13/09 John No one cares enough about this site to 'plant' a comment That's funny. 1 stars
4/12/09 Kara Ponchada What a piece of schlock! 1 stars
4/11/09 Kork.Klogz If you're the type of person who thinks "date rape" is funny, then this is the film 4 u. 1 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  10-Apr-2009 (R)
  DVD: 22-Sep-2009

UK
  N/A

Australia
  10-Apr-2009
  DVD: 22-Sep-2009


Directed by
  Jody Hill

Written by
  Jody Hill

Cast
  Seth Rogen
  Anna Faris
  Michael Pena
  Ray Liotta
  Jesse Plemons



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