Review: Observe and Report

Review: Observe and Report

Mall cops are apparently supposed to be funny these days.
Observe and Report (Warner Bros.)

Rated R for pervasive language, graphic nudity, drug use, sexual content and violence.

Starring Seth Rogen, Anna Faris, Ray Liotta, Michael Pena, John Yuan, Matt Yuan, Celia Weston, and Collette Wolfe.

Written and directed by Jody Hill.



By Dan Metcalf

There's a line from the movie 8mm (a mediocre 1999 Nicolas Cage crime drama) that goes something like this: "There are some things that you see, and you can't unsee them." Observe and Report, a dark comedy based on a deranged mall cop is one of the movies I most definitely wish I could "un-see," but can't.

Seth Rogen plays Ronnie, the head security guard at a suburban anywhere-in-America mall. He leads a small team of other inept guards and lives with his alcoholic mom. Ronnie is also delusional in that he sees himself as some sort of supercop who will rid the world of crime and injustice. Ronnie also has a crush on Brandi (Anna Faris), a shallow make-up counter hottie. A crippled bun shop girl named Nell has a secret crush on Ronnie as well, even though he treats her poorly.

Several break-in robberies are going on inside the mall at night, and neither the police or the bumbling team of mall cops seem to be able to catch the culprit.

When a serial flasher exposes himself to Brandi, the real police step in. Ronnie insults the investigating Detective Harrison (Ray Liotta) and makes his move to hook up with Brandi as her new protector. Ronnie also seizes his chance to realize his life-long dream of being a real cop, and begins the examination process.
Things are going fine until Ronnie fails the psychological exam (I guess they have a problem with delusional, violent bi-polar loners on the force...go figure) and discovers Brandi is, uhm, having a "relationship" with Detective Harrison, he goes into a violent, drug-ridden tail spin that gets him in trouble with the real police and gets him fired.

Will Ronnie redeem himself, win the affections of the sweet Nell, catch the flasher, and get his job back to live happily ever after?

Without giving too much away, I can say that Ronnie does get some sort of redemption, but the process played out in the finale of Observe and Report is too disgusting and graphic to stomach. Indeed, the last 10 minutes of Observe and Report is one of the moments in life I wish I could erase from my memory.

To be sure, there are some genuinely funny moments in Observe and Report, but if you've seen the trailer, you've seen them all. In the middle of those moments is an excruciating series of un-funny gags based on shock value of coarse language, nudity, and extreme violence. Incidentally, the "graphic nudity" clause in the film's R rating refers to the afore-mentioned final scene in the movie in which a naked, chubby, hairy middle aged man runs (sometimes in slow motion) through the mall as Ronnie chases him, so if you're looking for sexy fun, this isn't your movie.

Rogen is a funny guy, but the more of his films I see, the more I see him as a one-note musician; an actor doing an impression of himself. Rogen shows a little of his vulnerable side in Observe and Report, but relies heavily on his penchant for being a loud, obnoxious goofball. Anna Faris does a fine job as the slutty dingbat, and Celia Weston has some funny moments as the frank alcoholic mom. Michael Pena delivers one of the strangest and lispy, odd performances in the movie as one of Ronnie's amoral security guards.

Observe and Report is a "dark" comedy, that takes the darkness way, way too far. Things like sexual assault (yes, flashing is a sexual assault), bipolar disorder, alcoholism, police brutality and racism can be satirized in movies, but Observe and Report leans more toward exploitation than it does in promoting thought. It seems more like writer-director Jody Hill and Rogen have embraced the darkness rather than made intelligent fun of it.
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