With its ambling plot, oddball characters and sudden bursts of violence, Observe and Report is a weird little movie. I chuckled a lot and was shocked a few times, but I wouldn't necessarily say that it's an uproariously funny comedy. I'm not sure what it is, actually.
In the story, mall cop Ronnie Barnhardt (Seth Rogen) considers himself tough and important but when incidents occur at his mall — like a flasher terrorizing women in the parking lot, or someone robbing a store — the police are called in and Ronnie's job suddenly seems inconsequential by comparison. He applies to become a police officer and in the meantime pursues Brandi (Anna Faris), the shallow, blond party girl who works at a cosmetics counter and who clearly has no interest in Ronnie. The thing about Ronnie, though, is that he doesn't quite see the reality of things, so when he finally realizes that he might not be police officer material and Brandi doesn't consider him her boyfriend, he kinda loses it. Can he ever earn the respect of everyone around him? I won't say what happens but I will share more thoughts if you read more.
It's not a particularly well-told story, as the narrative wanders from point to point and we watch our lead character merely go from delusional fantasy to blind rage and back again. Sure, his outrageous behavior is funny — particularly in the setting of a sleepy suburban mall — but it's still hard to care about him all that much. It feels a bit like we're rooting for him out of some kind of obligation.
Rogen does a fine job in this kind of role — the schlubbier-than-average guy with a humorously unrealistic view of himself and his place in the world. Rogen fans will most likely enjoy this performance and this movie that revolves entirely around him, but in his ever-lengthening résumé, I have a feeling Observe and Report will not stand out as one of his best. His costars — especially Anna Faris and Celia Weston — give their all to this film and they succeed in bringing blasts of (often inappropriate) fun.
As I left the screening I overheard a conversation about how "uncreative" the movie is, and while I wouldn't go that far, I would say that some parts seem lazy. Certain gags are dragged out for a long time, I think to make them funnier, but the result is something that just feels draggy. And other scenes are quite funny but so dark or bleak that I ended up just feeling sad. It's extremely vulgar and violent, and definitely not for everyone's taste, but if you do like this sort of thing then it's worth seeing this someday just to see all these funny people interact.