Brandi has been shaken to the core by the full frontal sight of the passing flasher.

Observe and Report

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


            Have you ever been glad you saw a movie but not glad enough to recommend it to your friends? That’s “Observe and Report.” This is Seth Rogen’s fair enough attempt to add a dimension of sorts to his slacker sex comedies (“Knocked Up”). To darken things up a bit, he plays a bi-polar security guard at an all-American mall. Ronnie Barnhardt (Rogen) has not just delusions of grandeur, but an absolute determination to become an action hero who saves the mall from a serial flasher.

            For some unfathomable reason, I began to laugh in the opening scenes when writer/director Jody Hill zooms in with big close-ups of such sights as two hands lovingly creating a pizza, or gently forming a wrap, or polishing the inventory. For all the world you would think we were being prepared for a five star restaurant instead of the Food Court. But in its own convoluted way, it’s quite an introduction to the culture of the mall. Every kiosk is a special contribution to the whole proud concept of the American mall. I just hadn’t thought of it that way before.

            Ronnie’s real ambition – to be a policeman so he can carry a gun and lay waste the evildoers of the world (skateboarders, pot smokers, and thieves) – is fueled by his determination to pr otect Brandi, the bimbo blond at the cosmetics counter who has just been shaken to the core by the full frontal sight of the passing flasher. For Brandi, Ronnie repeatedly walks right past the tender attentions of the counter girl at Dunkin’ Donuts.

            When the mall summons Detective Harrison (Ray Liotta) of the real police, Ronnie’s jealousy overwhelms him and he launches an interminable turf battle with Harrison. There are some good laughs when Ronnie goes for an entry interview at the real police department. His manic responses to questions about the police mission, “I blow everything away; it’s God’s work” doom his dreams.

            You should know, in case you are easily offended, that you will endure backseat sex, sex with a vomiting drunk, and the ingestion of pot, cocaine, and heroin. The F-word is front and center as is the flasher’s equipment as he jiggles his way through the mall.

            After Ronnie finally performs the deed that wins the admiration of his mall peers, he drives off in his security golf cart with an attached umbrella, his tasers, and his Mace. “This is my world,” he says lovingly of the kiosks hawking wares unneeded by the world. It would have been a lot easier to rejoice in Ronnie’s success without the final thunderous violence used to prove his worth. Baseball bats, shovels, guns, blood, and rage didn’t seem necessary in what otherwise might have been a simpler story of a guy finding a girl and rising above his own mental problems to accept that he is after all good enough to be a real part of something he loves.


Copyright (c) Illusion

Return to Ellis Home Page