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Mr. Beaks Is Repulsed By His Affection For Jody Hill's OBSERVE AND REPORT!

Jody Hill's OBSERVE AND REPORT begins boldly, with The Band's take on Bob Dylan's "When I Paint My Masterpiece" blaring out over a montage of American mall bustle. Bratty kids, shoplifting teenagers, and, above all, thoughtless consumerism - it's all represented in yawning slo-motion. And it'd all be completely mundane were it not for that opening profile shot of Seth Rogen's pudgy Ronnie Barnhardt surveying the activity with an authoritarian sneer. It's a crucial gesture because, from that point on, we associate the surreal, grandiose yearning of Dylan's lyrics with Ronnie's drive to rule this realm of numbness. "Someday, everything is gonna be diff'rent, When I paint my masterpiece." Ronnie's medium: mall security. His theme: justice. His audience: everyone who passes through the doors of the Forest Ridge Mall, but specifically Brandi (Anna Faris), the slutty makeup counter girl who is aware of Ronnie only as an annoyance. His muse: a trench coat-clad flasher who's showing his cock to random females in the parking lot. And when this pervert whips out his manhood in front of Brandi, Ronnie uses the attack as a provocation to do something great for the first time in his life. He's going to catch this sicko and prove to the world that he's "the man". If Ronnie's limited ability to "observe and report" was the only impediment standing in the way of his hazily-defined triumph, Hill's film would be just another portrait of a raging, undereducated, firearm-crazy white guy. But Ronnie's got another problem: he suffers from bipolar disorder. There's a chemical explanation for his violent mood swings. Suddenly, his gun-nuttery and lecherous pursuit of Brandi - particularly when he uses his position and his girth to bully her into a date - isn't winningly schlubby; it's downright frightening. He views himself as an avenging angel; he's the rain that's come to wash the scum off the streets (or at least the premises of Forest Ridge Mall). Ronnie Barnhardt is the last guy who should be packing heat or chasing a sexual deviant; if anyone needs looking after, it's him. Compared to Fred Simmons (of THE FOOT FIST WAY) and Kenny Powers (of the just-renewed HBO series EASTBOUND & DOWN), Ronnie is easily the most dangerous of Hill's delusional protagonists. But because he's played by the ever amiable Seth Rogen, he's also the most ingratiating. When Ronnie racially profiles an arabic vendor (Aziz Ansari) or resolves via the "just look at him" approach that a Mexican janitor has confessed to being the flasher, we're amused more than appalled. Ronnie may be a racist, but, in this instance, he's merely trying to nab some tubby dick-wagger in order to be the hero - which, to his mind, is the diamond lane to Brandi's heart/pants. So we excuse it because the whole ordeal is just so utterly fucking mindless. And that's the trick Hill keeps pulling off throughout the film: we're consistently laughing off Ronnie's behavior because he seems too inept to be a threat. This is all well and good in the early going, but then there's the ride-along scene with Ray Liotta's Detective Harrison, where Ronnie gets stranded in a rough neighborhood and somehow brawls his way out of a one-on-five with a pack of gun-toting drug dealers. Now we see the potential for catastrophe in Ronnie; he has an impressive facility for violence. The thing is, we're primed to cheer, not recoil. And if the audience response in both screenings I've attended is any kind of accurate reflection, people are going to applaud Ronnie's lethal outburst without a moment's hesitation. By this point, it's pretty clear that if anyone's painting a masterpiece, it's Hill. Sure, we've rooted on borderline fascists before (e.g. Dirty Harry), but sociopaths*? And to what end? There's nothing remotely decent about Ronnie's actions. His impulse to apprehend wrongdoers is selfish; it's a power-trip fueled by resentment and libido. And he's derailing a legitimate police investigation in the process. But we're sitting there pulling for him to catch the bad guy, bed the girl (which he does thanks to a liberal application of daiquiris, tequila shots and anticonvulsants), and throw up a middle finger to the civilized world in a gesture of mad defiance. Why? That's a damn good question.

Spoilers a-comin.

There's been a lot of talk about OBSERVE AND REPORT's transgressive nature, but that only applies if you think Hill and Rogen (uncredited as a co-writer, but crucial in the shaping of the screenplay) are getting off on Ronnie's bad behavior. I'd like to think they're being more subversive than transgressive - if only because I don't want to feel horrible about having enjoyed their film so thoroughly. In Hill's previous work, his protagonists have been humbled to the point of changing something in their lives. Not so with Ronnie. Oh, sure, he takes a pretty awful beating at the hands of Liotta and the cops, but he learns nothing from it. And maybe he comes to understand the shallowness of his love for Brandi, but it's not like his intentions with the other, nicer girl (Collette Wolfe aka Mrs. Jodi Hill) are pure. His deranged worldview has been reinforced. And as Ronnie blasts away at the firing range in the film's final shot, we should be horrified because his rage is anything but impotent. But even after we've seen Ronnie put a bullet through an unarmed flasher at point-blank range, we're elated. And maybe that's even worse. It's hard to tell. I'm still laughing too hard to decide whether I should be ashamed with myself - not to mention whether Hill's painted a masterpiece or just said some really uncouth shit. Faithfully submitted, Mr. Beaks P.S. If you live in New York or Los Angeles, and want your faith restored in humanity after seeing this, make OBSERVE AND REPORT the first half of a double feature with ANVIL! THE STORY OF ANVIL. Or, if you want to avoid this raucous unpleasantness altogether, just go see ANVIL!

*And the dolts who adopted the Travis Bickle look for midnight screenings of TAXI DRIVER back in the day don't count.

Readers Talkback
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  • April 10, 2009, 5:40 p.m. CST


    by BobParr

    I just didn't want to say "First" again. No offense intended.

  • April 10, 2009, 5:42 p.m. CST

    This is about the 50th AICN article for this movie

    by BobParr

    The kiss of death. Poor WATCHMEN.

  • April 10, 2009, 5:46 p.m. CST


    by Hasselhoffflying

    I love saying that!

  • April 10, 2009, 5:46 p.m. CST

    Good review, Beaks

    by bravogolfhotel

    Your ambivalence about this film was very thoughtfully expressed.

  • April 10, 2009, 5:47 p.m. CST

    now I'll read the review...

    by Hasselhoffflying

    DONKEY BALLS haha fooled you

  • April 10, 2009, 5:48 p.m. CST

    Considering The Band

    by Hasselhoffflying

    was DYlan backup band it's not exactly "Their take" on it... DONKEY BALLS

  • April 10, 2009, 6:02 p.m. CST

    Only 50% positive on RT, batting 1000 on AICN

    by JuanSanchez

  • April 10, 2009, 6:17 p.m. CST

    Jody Hill! Jody Hill! Jody Hill!

    by BangoSkank

    Did everyone get the memo? Mention his name as much as possible. <p> I guess Harry has a new fuck buddy or something. <p> You know, it's amazing how you can go from loving something --like a website-- to holding it in absolute contempt. <p> Harry, and the lack of effort he puts into his DVD reviews, to his shit movie reviews, to having two Hannah Mon-fuckin-tana reviews, to the fuckin' bandwagon-dick-suckin' that goes on around here. <p> I know. I know. If you don't like it, don't let the door hit you on the way out..... I hear ya.

  • April 10, 2009, 6:31 p.m. CST

    Not many people seem to like Seth Rogan

    by The_Man_Behind_The_Curtain

    If you're wondering what Mavra thinks of him, pop over to and ask her!

  • April 10, 2009, 6:31 p.m. CST

    This flick is gonna polarize people.

    by fiester

    That's just a fact.

  • April 10, 2009, 6:41 p.m. CST

    Is something happening?

    by WavingFlagsInSpace

    Are people becoming less tolerant of the amount of mutual wanking that is going on on this website?<p>There seems to be a divide between those who have been coming here for years and couldn't give a shit, those who have been coming in recently and finding the whole myth seriously exploded and those who pop in once in a while and couldn't give a shit.<p>let's not forget that the rules changed somewhat when D_G_D_B was mentioned in a strap line (and props to him for ignoring the fuck out of it other than one passing post...)<p>The maniacs are taking over the asylum and thank fuck because those in charge are busy taking it long and deep from certain studios...

  • April 10, 2009, 6:56 p.m. CST

    This movie sound fucking depressing

    by Turd Furgeson

    Sounds like a total downer.

  • April 10, 2009, 7:28 p.m. CST

    Good review

    by Happyfat73

    I'm looking forward to this, although the marketing that I've seen hasn't done too much to distance it from Paul Blart: Mall Cop. I wonder how that will skew audience expectations?</p> What's going on with mall cop movies anyhow? Mall cops are the new volcanos.

  • April 10, 2009, 7:37 p.m. CST

    Observe* And Report**

    by Tipsy McStagger

    *83 minutes worth of it and a laugh count I can ring off with one hand (my stroke hand) **It sucks (with your mouth, you whore)

  • April 10, 2009, 7:46 p.m. CST

    I think it was good

    by CherryValance

    I'm not 100% sure though because there was a GODDAMN KID in my theater. Wouldn't shut up, hyper-active noisemaker. And I couldn't get over the fact that her "parent" didn't take her to Hannah Montana instead. I would have complained about the noise to an usher but I was too busy thinking I should call child & family services. I'm so sick of that. This isn't a case where the parent walked out because they didn't know it was inappropriate for their kid, that whorebag of a mother couldn't have cared less. It's so ridiculous. They've got to start cracking down on kids in rated R movies. There is no parental supervision anymore and it's ruining movies for the rest of us. rant over. </p> <p>Anyhow about the movie, I didn't get the same kind of reaction when he did the things he did. I wasn't ashamed or embarassed to be laughing at what he did because he really thought he was doing good and half the time he was. But then again I never saw Travis Bickle as a villain either so maybe it's me. The only other thing is that the last few comedies I've seen have such a slow pace, it's like a trend or a new genre. Is anyone else feeling like that?</p>

  • April 10, 2009, 8:04 p.m. CST

    Petition to ban kids from Rated R movies etc

    by FuryofthefilmFan

  • April 10, 2009, 8:08 p.m. CST

    I swear, the next time someone misuses the word 'fascist,' I am

    by twindaggerturkey

  • April 10, 2009, 8:08 p.m. CST

    going to shoot someone.

    by twindaggerturkey

  • April 10, 2009, 8:10 p.m. CST

    (subject length fail, teehee)

    by twindaggerturkey

  • April 10, 2009, 8:41 p.m. CST

    It's pretty damn bad

    by AlwaysThere

    No funny to be found.

  • April 10, 2009, 8:46 p.m. CST

    Who are the ad wizards...

    by wampa 1

    ...that came up with this one?

  • April 10, 2009, 9:30 p.m. CST

    Dirty Harry "fascist"?

    by jdb1972

    You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

  • April 10, 2009, 9:31 p.m. CST

    BangoSkank & WavingFlagsInSpace...

    by Grinning White Skull

    ...get it. As Pogo once observed, "YEP, SON, WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY AND HE IS US."

  • April 10, 2009, 9:48 p.m. CST

    "I have drank from a volcano"

    by The Dum Guy

    I once had a friend go off his meds and the hilarity that ensued was epic... well not really funny, but in hindsight the story is hilarious, at least to here him tell it.

  • April 10, 2009, 10 p.m. CST

    Flash Gordon!

    by NeilJohnBrimelow

    The scene recreating the "football fight" scene from "Flash Gordon," was freakin' great!

  • April 10, 2009, 10:37 p.m. CST

    It's Paul Blart, Mall Cop!!!

    by Media Messiah

    Let's all slow down and admit, this is a rip-off, the fastest rip-off to ever hit theaters since the release of the film that it is ripping off, that being Paul Blart, Mall Cop!!!

  • April 10, 2009, 11:21 p.m. CST

    Dirty Harry is a fascist...

    by Happyfat73

    ... in the pejorative sense. Kinda. Fascist is no longer just a term used to describe extreme right wing, authoritarian governments - it now has common usage as a pejorative term for individuals who enforce extreme right wing, authoritarian ideologies, ala Dirty Harry.</p> That said, the term has been overused to the point of meaninglessness... and ranks up there with "nazi" and "racist" as overused epithets used to describe anyone who doesn't agree with you.

  • April 11, 2009, 12:42 a.m. CST


    by Moon_Knight

    If you have to feel bad about anything you saw in this film then you just don't get it. This is one of the best movies I have ever seen. The audience cheered because Ronny stood up for himself and kicked ass. "Ronny may be a racist" Oh please asshole, Mr. Beaks please put down your politically correct/third wave feminism books and join the real world. Seth Rogan should win an Oscar.

  • April 11, 2009, 2:27 a.m. CST

    So Rogen grants interview, and AICN loves it


    Big Fucking Surprise, goodbye integrity.

  • April 11, 2009, 8:49 a.m. CST

    beaks, you liberal

    by ohwillo

    Ronnie Barnhart is a fucking hero, damn right people cheered, if more people were like Ronnie the world would be a better place. Stop saying shit like the last person who should be packing heat is Ronnie.

  • I saw this one yesterday and I simply don't understand the AICN hype. I thought there was more "transgressive" material in I Love You Man (funnier puke scene) and Pinnaple Express (more shocking violence). Micheal Pena is a reject from a MadTV sketch and the Yuen brother's are straight out of Napolean Dynamite. In other words, Observe and Report is nothing you havn't seen before. Finally, as far as I could tell, there was no "date rape" scene. Just a mid-coitus jump cut that implies that Brandi was at least partially coherent when the good times commenced.

  • April 11, 2009, 2:14 p.m. CST

    bu bu bu bu but his name doesn't sound like fart!

    by polyh3dron

    therefore he can not be a good mall cop

  • April 11, 2009, 2:48 p.m. CST

    Date rape is funny as hell

    by johnnyangelheart

    but only if it's Seth Rogen getting fucked in the ass.

  • April 11, 2009, 3:08 p.m. CST

    I Love You Man Kinda Sucked...

    by Frodo T. Baggins

    Do these Apatow guys write their own shit? Cause they always have there own casual stink about everything.

  • April 11, 2009, 6:24 p.m. CST

    I love the...

    by Dead_Geek

    .... scene of Rogen having "SEX" with Anna Faris. Date rape is funny. bang! thud.

  • April 12, 2009, 3:21 a.m. CST

    Supposed date rape...

    by Finding Forrestal

    Brandi briefly regained consciousness mid-coitus and said something like "why are you stopping, motherfucker?" <br><br> That's consent, as far as I'm concerned.

  • April 12, 2009, 5:57 a.m. CST

    It has begun

    by UnApatowzing

  • April 12, 2009, 2:15 p.m. CST

    Rogen on the Daily Show

    by doctor_gonzo

    If you are curious as to whether Rogen actually liked his character you should see his interview with Jon Stewart. He clearly compares his character with Travis Bickle and when Stewart asks if his faith in himself is born out at the end Rogen basically says "I don't know, at the end of Taxi Driver when he shoots all those guys, are you psyched about it?" Rogen is pretty clear that he views the guy as completely and utterly nuts, not like "misunderstood" or something like that. I also think it is kinda weird to fixate on what the filmmakers were thinking when they made the movie and to almost reserve opinion on whether you liked the film based on that. Own up to whether you liked the film. Also, do you really think Hill and Rogen are maladjusted sociopaths who genuinely view this guy as heroic?

  • April 12, 2009, 8:02 p.m. CST

    "...Deep Impact & Armaggedon..."

    by pokadoo

    Add this and Paul Bart: Mall Cop to your Knocked Up list of two-at-a-time films, Seth Rogen! Two Mall Cop comedied at the same time. Look forward to this though, just saw a trailer on TV. Plus, i'm a fan of Eastbound & Footfist.

  • April 12, 2009, 10:05 p.m. CST


    by rbottoms

    Drunk and near unconscious with no capacity to give consent. That's rape in any jurisdiction. Loads of fun, with a budget small enough to guarantee it will make money anyway.

  • April 13, 2009, 3:13 a.m. CST

    RE: Finding Forrestal

    by s0nicdeathmonkey

    then you're a rapist as far as I, and the law, are concerned.

  • April 13, 2009, 4:35 p.m. CST

    This big pile o' boodle bombed at the box office

    by FeralAngel

    Rightfully so. May Seth Rogen get slammed, bammed and thank-you-ma'amed by a rabid Muppet manipulated by his overrated partner-in-slime Jason Segal. What a couple of bums (anatomically speaking).

  • April 13, 2009, 6:49 p.m. CST

    When Won't They Like a Judd Apatow Movie?

    by RickyShoreSingsTheBlues

    Remember when this site was gossip? Now all of the stories on AICN are advertisements for movies. AICN isn't gossip, it's not like Perez Hilton anymore. Nowadays, AICN is more like Entertainment Tonight, where public relations representatives for the major studios cobble together stories for AICN to present as their own. Why is Harry ALL OVER Judd Apatow's nuts? Anything he or Seth Rogan does gets like forty stories on this site and Harry and his cronies proclaim the movie a "masterpiece" or something ridiculous. It's because AICN and the studios work closely together to manipulate you into thinking these movies are "cool". This site isn't what it used to be. Now it's nothing but advertisements. Fake. Harry sold his integrity. Don't read this site. Don't believe the hype. Jody Hill is just another director they're trying to force down our throats. Eastbound and Down is like unwatchable. CHECK OUT RICKY SHORE SINGS THE BLUES INSTEAD

  • April 14, 2009, 2:24 a.m. CST

    Nikki Finke on the B.O. & Date Rape

    by Grinning White Skull

    In 4th place was Warner Bros' R-rated mall cop Observe And Report starring Seth Rogen, Anna Faris and Ray Liotta: it opened with about $4.7M Friday and $3.9M Saturday from 2,727 dates for a $10.9M Easter Weekend. But what was the studio thinking by allowing a "date rape" scene in which Rogen's character has sex with an unconscious female trashed on antidepressants and tequila? (Rogen in a recent interview said: "When we're having sex and she's unconscious like you can literally feel the audience thinking, like, how are they going to make this OK? ... And then she says, like, the one thing that makes it all okay: 'Why are you stopping'?" What utter crap. Everyone connected with this pic should be ashamed.

  • April 14, 2009, 2:30 p.m. CST

    I think Rogan is the problem here

    by Miss Red

    His big droopy hang dog face and the amiable guy he's portrayed before just don't mesh with this character.