Here’s the simplest way to put it: if you liked the over-the-top, brutal finale of Pineapple Express, you’ll most likely find yourself enjoying Observe and Report, a file that is plenty mean-spirited in its own right. Sometimes aiming for straight gross-out gags and other times targeting oddly-timed and prolonged verbal exchanges, Observe and Report actually manages to mold the two together pretty well in a nice, compact 86-minute runtime.
Seth Rogen stars as Ronnie, the head security officer at the local mall. While many may laugh at his profession, Ronnie treats his job as if he’s protecting the Pentagon. When a prolific flasher begins terrorizing patrons, including Brandi (Faris), Ronnie’s crush who works at the makeup counter, at the mall, Ronnie makes it his life’s work to catch the pervert. Standing in his way is Detective Harrison (Liotta), a hard-nosed cop whom Ronnie sees as stealing his thunder.
Writer/Director Jody Hill winds up making the film much more than the standard comedy fare we’ve been seeing of late. Hill implements some truly genre-pushing measures as the film really takes place in a world all its own. Much like the aforementioned Pineapple Express, there really aren’t any consequences for the character’s actions. This opens the gates for all sorts of craziness, including a final ten minutes that truly has to be seen to be believed. Awkward male nudity has been a staple of R-rated comedies over the past year or so, but Observe and Report is nothing other than fearless in its finale. The rest of the film is hit-and-miss, but it never loses your attention.
Rogen seems more subdued here than in previous roles, but he’s a true pro at acting self-serious while at the same time winking at the audience non-stop. He also has a knack for gaining audience empathy, which oddly enough he pulls off with ease in this role. The supporting work by Anna Faris and Ray Liotta is quality, particularly Faris, who can wring laughs at will with her over-the-top valley girl routine. A sequence in which Ronnie convinces Brandi that the flasher may be trying to kill her is a highlight.
Observe and Report is definitely not the run-of-the-mill comedy that many may be expecting. The film has a mean streak that may rub some the wrong way, but those who enjoy offbeat and dark humor will find plenty to like here. Rogen, whose act I was getting somewhat tired of, delivers this role at just the right time with a vehicle that will undoubtedly divide audiences, for better or worse.
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Length: 86 Minutes
Rating: R for pervasive language, graphic nudity, drug use, sexual content and violence.
Theatrical Release: April 10, 2009
Directed by: Jody Hill
Written by: Jody Hill
Cast: Seth Rogen, Ray Liotta, Michael Peña, Anna Faris, Dan Bakkedahl, Jesse Plemons