Home | Review Archive | The Bucket 'Blog | Screening Log | Film Festival Coverage | Contact Danny


  Observe and Report

Starring: Seth Rogen, Anna Farris, Michael Pena, Ray Liotta, The Yuans

Directed by: Jody Hill

Produced by: Donald De Line
Written by: Jody Hill

Distributor: Warner Bros.

As seen at the 2009 SXSW Film Festival:

     The invaluable Seth Rogen (there, I said it) stars in Jody Hill’s Observe and Report as Ronnie Barnhardt, a mall cop who shares about as much in common with Paul Blart as Marilyn Manson does with Elmo. Ronnie’s a total loser by conventional standards: he’s well into his thirties, but still lives with his alcoholic mother and doesn’t have an apparent life outside the mall, which he exhorts a sadistic sense of ownership over. (Okay, I’m serious here, as much as that might sound like Paul Blart: Mall Cop on paper, take one look at the trailer and you won’t be comparing the two any longer.) Ronnie goes completely gun-ho when an on-the-loose male flasher who terrorizes mall patrons disrobes before his unhealthy obsession of a crush: makeup kiosk worker Brandi (Anna Faris). Ignoring the demands of the detective assigned to the case (Ray Liotta), Ronnie vows to take matters into his own hands and catch the perpetrator at all costs.

     Observe and Report is as offensive and abstract as studio movies come. Yes, the rumors are true: there is an extended a scene in which Ronnie date-rapes Brandi, only for her to perk up and ask “Why are you stopping, motherfucker?” when he slows his thrusts to check if she’s alive. Many will call it trash, but I found it to be the funniest film of the year so far. We laugh at Ronnie because he’s downright pathetic and, as was the case with the karate-choppin’ protagonist in Hill’s debut (The Foot Fist Way), we don’t feel bad about doing so because we sense that Ronnie is so far gone that he wouldn’t recognize our laughter for a character judgment even if he could hear it. In fact, it isn’t necessarily a judgment: one could argue that it’s instead the only way for the viewer to cope with the scary idea that there are probably real Ronnies living in America. For this same reason, we nearly embrace the character because he’s utterly fascinating as a representation of a culture gone down the tubes. As such, Ronnie may not even fit the “anti-hero” mold; if pressed, I’d call him a “likably flawed hero.”

     It goes without saying that a full understanding of why Rogen and Hill’s brand of absurdist comedy can be so riotous is beyond the scope of this review. Don’t even get me started on the social commentary achieved by Ronnie’s equally-nutty fleet of fellow mall officers played Michael Pena and the Yuan twins, let alone the film’s buzzed-about resemblance to Taxi Driver. Observe and Report is simply a movie you must see to believe and, in truth, whether it leaves you revolted or in stitches may be beside the point entirely.

-Danny Baldwin, Bucket Reviews

Review Published on: 3.22.2009

Screened on: 3.16.2009 at the Paramount Theatre in Austin, TX.


Observe and Report is rated R and runs 86 minutes.

Back to Home