Observe and Report
WHAT IT'S ABOUT?
Ronnie Barnhardt is a kickass shopping-mall head-security guard with severe delusions of power. He meets his match when a cynical police detective is called in to take care of business after Ronnie and his crew fail to stop a parking lot flasher and can't foil a jewelry-store robbery. Determined to prove his worth in the trade and in his personal life, Ronnie applies for a job as a cop, pursues a cosmetics salesgirl and tries to solve some crimes using his own unorthodox methods.
WHO'S IN IT?
Tailor-made for the considerable comic talents of Seth Rogen, Barnhardt is a funny Travis Bickel, a guy with severe self-worth issues who carries on a dialogue with himself in his head. Unlike Paul Blart, this is a mall cop out to maul first and ask questions later. Rogen fits the bill and singlehandedly makes it all worth seeing. Anna Faris as his prospective girlfriend is given lots of opportunities to overact and takes all of them. Still, she's quite funny in a drunken dinner scene that ends with her passed out in the bedroom under Rogen's huge girth. Ray Liotta pretty much walks through his role as the pro detective who thinks Barnhardt is a total joke. Michael Pena is strong as another security guard while twins John and Matt Yuan and Jesse Plemons are hilarious as their dim-witted mall cop colleagues. Although he only has a couple of scenes, Aziz Ansari steals them both as a smart-aleck hanger-on. Celia Weston and Rogen, as mother and son, have some wonderfully droll moments together, but it's first-time actor Randy Gambill as the flasher who gets the real comic workout and exposes himself as one to watch (hopefully with his clothes back on next time).
A cynical, acerbic attitude rules the day here, and the idea of putting a real wacko in the mall-cop position has more bite than the PG-13 Blart, a movie that was blessed with the likable presence of Kevin James but suffered major credibility lapses.
Writer/director Jody Hill had a great idea but too often goes for the easy joke or gross-out gag when he should have drifted straight into hell with this character and really let Rogen loose. It's hilarious in parts, but the overall tone is wildly uneven and not totally satisfying.
The final confrontation between Rogen and the flasher has to be seen to be believed and on its own more than enough to merit the film's well-deserved restricted rating.
SHOULD THERE BE A SEQUEL?
Yes, and it should pair Blart vs. Barnhardt in a food-court showdown. It could be the best thing since Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla.
Hollywood.com rated this film 3 stars.