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Overall Rating

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
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Rob Gonsalves

"A modern cult classic."
5 stars

During the opening credits of "Observe and Report," we see various mall shoppers indulging in all the deadly sins, either obvious (gluttony, sloth) or subtle (pride and envy are covered in one shot of an employee waxing a raffle car while passersby gaze upon its splendor).

Watching over all this is Ronnie Barnhardt (Seth Rogen), unhinged head of mall security. Ronnie sees these sins of consumerism every day. He sees himself as the thin (or thick) blue line between order and chaos, though the same line in his own head is blurred. Observe and Report, as you may have heard, is far darker stuff than you’d expect of a Seth Rogen comedy. But consider this actor’s recent movies: he has now completed the transgressive trifecta — sex (Zack and Miri Make a Porno), drugs (Pineapple Express), and now violence — all in less than a year’s time.

Rogen brings his usual affable bearishness to Ronnie, but this time the buck-toothed chortle tapers off into discomfiting silence, or the regular-guy enthusiasm tips over a little too readily into places where we can’t really follow him. Rogen’s happily appetitive persona morphs into that of a devourer, in a self-annihilating binge-and-purge sense as well as a destructive one. Thirteen years ago, Jim Carrey took a similar risk in The Cable Guy, using his own specific brand of comedy to disturb more than to amuse. That movie flopped, and this one isn’t faring much better, though I predict Observe and Report will someday amble alongside The Big Lebowski and other off-center comedies that became cult favorites later. The movie summons moods and thoughts it can’t quite structurally deal with, but it struggles to do so, and that struggle essentially is the movie.

Ronnie becomes obsessed with busting a flasher who’s been terrorizing the female clientele and staff. The flasher is a pervert, but at least he’s honest about what he is and what he wants, unlike Ronnie, who cloaks his base desires in "noble" rhetoric. Ronnie takes this opportunity to play Galahad to Brandi (Anna Faris), a toxic and oblivious makeup-counter girl, whom Ronnie loves and means to “protect” from the mad flasher. Who’ll protect her from Ronnie, though? In an already notorious scene, Ronnie climbs atop a drunken, drugged, barely conscious Brandi. It may or may not be date rape, but it absolutely points up the pathetic qualities of both characters and up-ends their callow fantasies (about being swept off one’s feet by a hero and knowing the touch of the princess, respectively).

Ronnie says the flasher's emergence may be the best thing that ever happened to him; it reminded me of Frank Sinatra's supposedly telling a friend, "Sometimes I wish someone would really hurt you so I could kill them." That line, so quintessentially, pugnaciously American, could've been the film's tag line. Driven by bizarre dreams of righteousness (emptying his shotgun into a “black cloud of cancer and pus”), Ronnie yearns to become a real cop. The real cops, personified by Ray Liotta in a classic hostile turn, know what Ronnie is at a glance — a delusional, probably dangerous blowhard, who is nevertheless a crack shot and more than able to hold his own in a fight.

Well-fed on fantasies of cancerous glory, Ronnie is an ironic hero for our times the way Travis Bickle was for the bicentennial. His thought processes don’t go much beyond “I’m right, everyone else is wrong.” Viewers who wrongly think Ronnie is being held up as an actual hero — as well as those expecting a rollicking Seth Rogen: Mall Cop — will loathe Observe and Report, but like many comedies, it manages to say more and cut deeper about where we are now than many an Oscar-nominated epic. It is also brutally, demonically funny, particularly in a sequence that manages to nod to Flash Gordon and A Clockwork Orange.

If that’s the sort of mix that strikes you as insanely inspired, "Observe and Report" is your brand of weirdness.

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originally posted: 04/13/09 08:21:51
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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 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 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
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  10-Apr-2009 (R)
  DVD: 22-Sep-2009


  DVD: 22-Sep-2009

Directed by
  Jody Hill

Written by
  Jody Hill

  Seth Rogen
  Anna Faris
  Michael Pena
  Ray Liotta
  Jesse Plemons

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