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Somewhat more than a flash of humor

BY KELLY DIGGINS | APRIL 13, 2009 7:30 AM

Film Review: Observe and Report
*** out of *****

Observe and Report is a movie for audiences who appreciate a little vulgar comedy.

For those of you wanting another dose of the surprisingly popular Paul Blart: Mall Cop, I wouldn’t recommend the raunchy, violent, and semi-dark comedy Observe and Report. But if you’re someone who isn’t offended by nudity, who has enjoyed Seth Rogen’s past work, and who was bored out of your mind by Paul Blart, then this newly released comedy is for you.

As the head of mall security, Ronnie Barnhardt (Rogen) spends his days patrolling the stores, beating up pre-teen skateboarders, and dreaming of becoming a real cop, before heading home each night where he lives with his perpetually drunk mother. So when one day brings the news that a flasher has exposed himself to numerous women in the mall’s parking lot, Ronnie begins his mission of catching the flasher and protecting all of the mall’s inhabitants.

As the flasher continues to pop up, his next victim is Brandi (Anna Faris), a conceited cosmetics-counter employee who hates her job and lives by the motto, “You can polish a turd, but it’s still a piece of shit” while applying makeup to customers. Despite her awful personality, Brandi serves as Ronnie’s reason for getting up each day.

When the pervert shows no sign of stopping, local police Detective Harrison (Ray Liotta) is brought in to help with the investigation that many feel Ronnie is too inept to undertake.

As an actor known for his threatening and hostile characters, Liotta manages to get some pretty decent laughs while still bringing his tough-guy mentality to the role.

Rogen’s performance is funny, entertaining, and smart. He has the rare ability to help elevate some of his colleagues’ work, but others just look like amateurs.

Rogen, Liotta, and Faris all are at ease in their roles, but other characters try too hard.

As Ronnie’s best friend and coworker Dennis, a role not given much to work with in the first place, Michael Peña is a pure caricature through the whole film. The accent and expressions are funny in the first few minutes of the movie, but they manage to grow old quickly.

As Ronnie becomes devoted to proving himself to Detective Harrison and catching the flasher before the police do, he meets Nell (Collette Wolfe), an innocent, polite girl who works at the coffee shop in the mall. The complete opposite of Brandi, Nell sports a purity ring on her finger to show her devotion to God, wears a pink turtleneck every day, and is clearly the right choice for nice guy Ronnie. Even though it takes almost the entire movie for Ronnie to realize this, the moment is the sweetest in the film and is then followed by the most shocking, which I won’t spoil here.

Observe and Report may be a film about a guy trying to stop a flasher, but it’s also about a guy who truly cares about his job, goes after his dream, and still manages to be pretty damn funny.


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