From the writer and director of The Foot Fist Way comes Observe and Report, a dark and surprisingly disturbing comedy starring Seth Rogen in a role that's considerably different than anything he's played before. The result: a love-it-or-hate-it film that doesn't always hit the right notes but is still consistently entertaining.
Rogen plays Ronnie Barnhardt, the head of security at a popular shopping mail. Ronnie is chubby, homely and suffers from undiagnosed bipolar disorder. After a flasher "attacks" the love of his life, a woman named Brandi (Anna Faris) who works at the perfume counter, Ronnie defies the detective assigned to the case (Ray Liotta) and sets out to top the pervert himself. More importantly, he sets out to get into Brandi's heart - and pants - despite her complete disinterest. As time goes on, his obsessions become more severe.
Rogen typically plays lovable idiots, but in Observe and Report, he is the ultimate anti-hero. On the one hand, he's willing to do anything to stop injustice; but he also has violent tendencies, delusions of grandeur and a willingness to take advantage of people when they're down (think: date rape). How you react to the previous sentence will probably determine how you'll like the movie.
Observe and Report is funny, but in a much darker, disturbing fashion than any of Rogen's previous films. His movies usually rely on laugh-out-loud, R-rated dialogue, but Observe and Report relies more on its premise. The film still has plenty of R-rated content, but the concept (a psychologically impaired security guard sets out to save the day) is much more take-or-break. It isn't as funny or witty as Rogen's other films, but there's something inherently entertaining and compelling about it. Furthermore, between Hill's writing and Rogen's performance, they successfully walk that fine line of delivering a protagonist who is so screwed up it's sad, so naively sleazy he should be hated, and yet so utterly pathetic that you want him to succeed all the more.
A movie review doesn't do this film justice. Some fans of Rogen will be turned off by the picture, while others will find it brilliant. Some expecting to love it will hate it, and vice versa. As for me, I liked it. It's funny, dark and entertaining, and features one of Rogen's finest performances. Would I watch it again? Probably not, but this was never the type of film that was going to get a lot of replay value.
Regardless, it's no Paul Blart: Mall Cop.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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