April 20, 2009 12:00 PM

Seth Rogen, Anna Faris, Ray Liotta | R |


Sometimes movies review themselves. “I thought this was going to be funny, but it’s actually kind of sad,” says a police detective in Observe and Report of a prank his partner plays on Ronnie Barnhardt (Rogen), an overeager mall cop. The same could be said of O&R. It is funny, often outrageously so, but there’s an underlying bleak streak to this dark, frequently violent comedy that keeps catching you by surprise. Writer-director Jody Hill (The Foot Fist Way) creates characters who are amusing onscreen but would be off-puttingly pathetic if they turned up in real life.

Ronnie is a loser, though never in his own mind. He’s single, has bipolar disorder, lives with his drunken mom (the glorious Celia Weston) and takes his job as a mall cop way too seriously. His mission: to catch a flasher at the mall who waved his puny wares at Brandi (Faris), a cosmetics saleswoman whom Ronnie adores.

Rogen stretches impressively here. His Ronnie is a hulking loose cannon, swinging between rage and tenderness (as when he lovingly covers his soused mother with a blanket after seeing her passed out on the floor). And Faris, who has the bruised look of an overripe peach dropped once too often, earns big laughs with her smart performance as a spectacularly dumb party girl.

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