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I found Observe and Report a very uneven viewing experience. On the one hand I see director Jody Hill has not learned from Judd Apatow or Kevin Smith’s mistakes and Seth Rogen is cast once again as the lead in a film. He is a fine, funny supporting actor. He cannot carry a film, though. It’s just not for him. That said, this was a great character for him and his best performance in several films. Rogen completely owns the role of Ronnie Barnhardt, a listless mall security guard happy to be around his sycophantic staff and lord his minimal power over the shops until a flasher terrorizes the mall parking lot. This brings in actual police detective Ray Liotta to investigate. This disruption of Ronnie’s power structure sends him to the police academy for validation, which he fails to receive. His spiraling world view spins completely out of control from here until Ronnie attempts to redeem himself.

Along the way Ronnie meets a born-again-virgin who vies quietly for his affection and he spurns her for Anna Farris’ self absorbed makeup counter girl. Again, this love triangle ends predictably. Ronnie’s one character non-flaw, which sticks out far too obviously since the rest of his personality is nothing but flaws, is his affection and care for his hopelessly alcoholic mother. The scenes between them have a sweetness but it feels partially forced given every other scene in the film.

The movie did frequently make me laugh. Some of the lines are just ridiculously funny and Rogen hits those notes with the confidence of his Apatow upbringing. He knows how to do this, as does Hill, proven in the Foot Fist Way and Eastbound and Down. Their choice to make Ronnie so terribly sad and unlikeable made for a tough, uphill battle to win the audience over. They fought to a standstill, though. The thing that drives it back down for me the most are the fight scenes. When Ronnie takes on a group of unsuspecting drug dealers with a hidden weapon it comes across as pure masturbation. When he fights the police (sadly to the greatest fight anthem ever, HERO from Flash Gordon) in a similar situation it just becomes embarrassing. This isn’t a John-Rambo-killing-machine unleashed on a group of unsuspecting small town cops; it’s a fat mall security guard with delusions of adequacy. These scenes ultimately made the loudest statement in Observe and Report, that it is far more about living your preposterous middle school fantasies, rather than dealing with your problems as an adult. This also makes the final scene between Ronnie and the coffee girl ring even more false. 2 ½ stars for a film with potential that cuts itself off at its own knees

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