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Overall Rating

Awesome: 27.69%
Worth A Look41.54%
Average: 3.08%
Pretty Bad: 10.77%
Total Crap: 16.92%

7 reviews, 23 user ratings

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Observe and Report
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Jay Seaver

"Sad to report, not worth observing."
2 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2009 SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST FILM FESTIVAL: "Observe and Report" has moments of gut-busting laughter; this I won't deny. It has one or two of the funniest moments I'll see all year. The trouble is, there's a scene somewhere in the middle that is far more representative: One character is playing a rather mean-spirited joke on another. It meanders a while, and then a third comes out from where he's hiding. "I thought this was going to be funny," he says, "but it's actually just kind of sad." Replace "sad" with "uncomfortable", and you've got a pretty good picture of how I felt watching this movie.

That's not to say that "funny" and "uncomfortable" are mutually exclusive concepts; they can go together very well. Those really funny bits mentioned above are funny for the same reasons the rest of the movie is off-putting, and, indeed, sometimes they wouldn't be nearly as funny if the rest of the movie was friendlier. The thing that writer/director Jody Hill often seems to miss here is that audience discomfort is a tool; it's not something that's funny on its own. Indeed, it's a tool that must be wielded very carefully, because using it removes other tools, such as sympathy, from the toolkit.

Ronnie Barnhardt (Seth Rogen), the head security guard for a suburban shopping mall, isn't exactly unsympathetic, but he's far from huggable. He's paranoid and racist, prone to excessive force. His friends are his fellow guards, Dennis (Michael Pena) and the Yuen brothers (John and Matt Yuan); he's got a massive torch for perfume counter girl Brandi (Anna Faris). There's a couple of threats to the mall, though - a string of break-ins on the one hand and a flasher on the other. Ronnie is determined to solve the case before Det. Harrison (Ray Liotta), who is horrified by the idea that Ronnie may soon be applying to the police academy.

These characters are fairly obnoxious to some extent or another, and while Ronnie is maybe not the most purely unpleasant - that title likely goes to Brandi - he pulls ahead by dint of how much time we spend with him. The crime is that they're not particularly funny in their unpleasantness; their bad points aren't exaggerated enough to be caricature and the vast majority of the jokes aren't funny enough to be a net positive when stacked up against the repulsiveness surrounding/giving rise to them.

It's a shame, because Seth Rogen is pretty good in this. I don't like the character, but Rogen plays it well. I'd probably be amused if he was a supporting character. The Yuan brothers might actually be finds; they don't quite steal every scene they're in, but their low-key supporting work makes them likely the film's most reliable source of laughs. Aziz Ansari, as a kiosk worker targeted by Ronnie for being named "Saddam", is also pretty amusing. Two of the people with bigger parts, whom you know can do better, are given very little to work with: Ray Liotta seems like he's not sure whether he's supposed to be playing the voice of reason or one more nutjob, and Anna Faris is utterly wasted as a character whose bitchiness has no particularly clever or funny component.

There's a place for comedy as mean-spirited as "Observe and Report", but that place has to be earned. Are five or six really funny minutes compared to eighty that make me want to be elsewhere enough to earn that spot? Sometimes. This isn't one of them.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 04/11/09 01:31:34
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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

3/25/18 morris campbell crude but very funny 4 stars
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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