Observe and Report (R) **

 

You'll see flashes of wit, but they're just flashes.

Observe and Report
Observe and Report
 

By Connie Ogle, The Miami Herald

This just in: Seth Rogen is not infallible. Hard to believe, after his string of hits, which includes Knocked Up, Superbad and Pineapple Express. But Observe and Report conveys an essential truth about Rogen: Like every other actor on the planet, he needs good material to do good work.

To be fair, Rogen is sporadically amusing in Jody Hill's remarkably tasteless film as Ronnie Barnhardt, a bipolar mall security guard with delusions of grandeur, especially after he hands over his meds in a misguided attempt to charm a bimbo (Anna Faris). Hill (The Foot Fist Way, HBO's Eastbound & Down) deserves some credit for going so far over the top; you have to admire a guy subversive enough to mock a subject as untouchable as mental illness. Unfortunately the film's humor is a lot like Ronnie's sanity: It comes and goes and isn't there when you most need it.

The story, what little there is of it, concerns a flasher at the mall and Ronnie's determination to catch him to win the affections of Brandi, the aforementioned bimbo, who sells cosmetics and knocks back tequila shots like a frat boy on 2-for-1 night. Standing in Ronnie's way is his lisping sidekick Dennis (an amusing Michael Peña) and a couple of other bumbling rent-a-cops; Detective Harrison (Ray Liotta), who is infuriated by Ronnie's meddling in the case; and Ronnie's inability to put two and two together and come up with anything other than 85.

Observe and Report feels more like a series of not-quite-successful skits thrown together than a movie with a script. Some of the scenes are amusing, such as Ronnie's goofily tender moments with his boozy, adoring mother (Celia Weston), and the film's startling final act will make you laugh even if you've only been rolling your eyes. But the gags are hit and miss. Even the usually reliable Danny McBride of Eastbound & Down, who came shockingly close to stealing Pineapple Express, isn't all that funny as an angry crackhead; his cameo feels forced. Like most of Observe and Report, it elicits the feeling you should be laughing, but the sad truth is you're not.

Cast: Seth Rogen, Ray Liotta, Michael Peña, Anna Faris.

Director/screenwriter: Jody Hill.

Producer: Donald DeLine.

A Warner Bros. release. Running time: 86 minutes. Pervasive language, graphic nudity, drug use, sexual content, violence. Playing at area theaters.

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