Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

I love Seth Rogen as much as the next guy, in a completely non-gay way that is, but I have commented that the next time I watch a movie with Mr. Rogen in it and he plays a character outside of his natural self, that would be the first time. Well I’ll be damned, the first time has come. Seth kind of showed a few acting chops in this comedy ‘Observe and Report’, a movie I thought was pretty funny at times, pretty disturbing most of the time with your enjoyment out of the movie probably resting on how funny you think being mentally ill can be.

Rogen assumes the role of Ronnie Barnhardt, the passionate to a fault head of security at the local mall – and please don’t make the mistake of calling him a security guard. With his squad of misfit security guards, which includes his right hand man Dennis (Michael Pena), newbie Bruce (Alston Brown) and twins John and Matt (John Yuan and Matt Yuan), this crew keeps the peace. Excitement arrives at the mall in form of the form of a flasher (Randy Gambill) who is terrorizing the women in the malls parking lot with streams of profanity in addition to forcing them to look upon his less the ideal physique.

Though Ronnie and them were none to happy about this flasher and his shenanigans, dude crossed the line when he flashes the unrequited object of Ronnie’s desire, pretty but completely vacuous cosmetics counter girl Brandi (Anna Farris) who treats the event as if she has just survived three years at Auschwitz. On a somewhat unrelated side note, I know Anna Farris has to eat and pay her bills just like the rest of us, assuming the 83 pound woman actually does eat, but the next time the opportunity comes up to play a vacant, stupid blonde, she might want to consider allowing that role to trickle on down to the next available actress. Nothing but mad love though.

Anyway this pervert has brought in the real police in Detective Harrison (Ray Liotta) who Ronnie feels in horning in on his ‘case’. It’s not long before Harrison builds up a

solid and genuine dislike… or maybe even hatred for Ronnie who is constantly in his way, makes it a point to speak out of line and when he does speak most of the stuff that comes out his mouth is stupid shit. But then Ronnie is certifiably mentally ill. However to the mans credit he doesn’t allow a little bi-polarism deter him from relentlessly pursuing the slutty counter girl, applying to be a legitimate police officer or continuing to pursue the mall perv in addition to a mall smash and grab artist who is also terrorizing this little enclave. That is until he stops taking his meds. Now what was once simple delusion has turned into a perceived complex reality… plus I think Ronnie owns a gun.

Directed by Jody Hill whose last movie I saw was ‘The Foot Fist Way’ which also had a mentally unbalanced protagonist as its lead, we must assume that young Mr. Hill, who also wrote the script for ‘Observe and Report’, must have some first hand knowledge of crazy people considering his apparent affinity for this rapidly growing segment of the American population. And considering the way the character of Ronnie Barnhardt’s escalating madness is handled, this is a film that does push boundaries of, how shall we say, good taste? That being said what ‘Observe and Report’ does manage to be is funny. There were times where it was really, really funny. Again the way the way Ronnie’s character was written and the way that Seth Rogen portrayed him we were in the uncomfortable position of laughing at him most of the time but what are you gonna do? Not laugh? That wasn’t really an option here. In addition to Seth Rogen’s interpretations of the comedic stylings of being flat out of one's mind, the comedy mill rolled forward like a freight train with Michael Pena, who was freaking hilarious as Ronnie’s equally unbalanced right hand man Dennis. Michael Pena, a star in the making. And we can’t overlook actress Celia Weston in her role as Ronnie’s drunken mom and of course who can do crazy better than Ray Liotta?

So subjectively speaking this was a funny movie. I mention the subjectivity of it all because if somebody were to say they didn’t find any humor whatsoever in the portrayal of this sad character, I’d completely understand. Its borderline tragic, at times cruel and there were times I felt as if Hill was threatening the audience to laugh, say at violently beating skateboarders over the head with their skateboards or the portrayal of drug usage. And if there was some kind of message to this exercise, outside of crazy folks are people too or that we need tighter gun control so loons can’t arm themselves, then I don’t think I really know what that message could be.

But shoot, it was funny. At least to me. And I know crazy. Hell, I’m married to arguably the craziest person on the planet earth. Plus this movie craps all over that other mall cop movie. Admittedly I wouldn’t drag the family along to see this exercise in violence, drug abuse, mental illness and borderline rape, like the family was dragged to see the family friendly ‘Paul Blart’, but this was way funnier.

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