The trailer for Observe and Report makes it look like a raunchy romp. Instead, it’s as bi-polar and off its meds as main character, Ronnie Barnhardt [Seth Rogen], head of security in as generic a mall as we’ve ever seen in a movie.
When a flasher exposes himself to a number of mall customers – and Ronnie’s personal crush, cosmetics salesgirl Brandi [Anna Faris] in the parking lot – it sets off a competition between Barnhardt and Detective Harrison. But, while Ronnie isn’t bright to realize that his second-in-command, Dennis [Michael Pena], isn’t the cool, laid back guy he appears to be, he is tough enough to make Harrison’s set up in a very bad neighborhood backfire [a sequence that suggests Rogen will be up for the action sequences in The Green Hornet].
Unfortunately, outside of terrific performances by Faris and Collette Wolfe [as fast-food server Nell, who has a sweet crush on Ronnie, who is completely oblivious], Observe and Report completely fails to reach its target as a spectacularly dark comedy. Mostly, it’s just spectacularly dark… with intermittent laughs – very intermittent… Even Celia Weston, as Ronnie’s alcoholic mother, is completely wasted. Worse, as the film moves farther into the darkness of bipolar-Ronnie-off-his-meds, even Rogen ceases to convince.
Writer/director Jody Hill keeps things moving, though – which is a blessing, as the movie wraps up in a very quick eighty-six minutes. That’s eighty-six minutes you would be advised to skip in favor of, say, counting molecules or picking your toenails. Seriously, Observe and Report is far less enjoyable than either of those options – Paul Blart: Mall Cop is a better movie!
Final Grade: D+