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Observe and Report

Movie review by
James Rocchi, Common Sense Media
Observe and Report Movie Poster Image
Dark, disturbing comedy is for adults only.
  • R
  • 2009
  • 82 minutes
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 10 reviews

Kids say

age 16+
Based on 15 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Despite the slapstick and profanity, this is a disquieting, darkly complex story about a character that we're never sure we should be rooting for. Ronnie (who has bipolar disorder) may be the protagonist, but he's hardly a hero -- he commits violent, brutal acts and is rewarded for them. Characters are also stereotyped (Ronnie suspects an immigrant vendor of being a terrorist based solely on the color of his skin, for example), and there aren't really any positive messages for viewers of any age.


Brutal, unapologetic violence. People are beaten (one by police) and Tasered; skateboarders are beaten with their own skateboards; characters have rough fistfights. A character uses a flashlight as a weapon. Guns are used -- in one case at point-blank range, with the bloody wound prominently shown.


Characters have sex while one of them is pass-out drunk; her consent is the "punchline," but it's still a deeply disquieting moment. There's also a long scene with full-frontal male nudity in which a flasher is pursued in slow-motion. Two characters have sex in the back of a car. Women are ogled.


Extensive, constant, and strong, including "f--k," "motherf---er," "s--t," "p---y," "ass," "balls," "dick," "c--k," "piss," "goddamn," "oh my God," and much more.


The movie is set in a mall, so there's some contextual mention of real-life brands.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters drink to excess (sometimes until they vomit) and mix their alcohol with illicit prescription drugs; characters also smoke pot and use cocaine. One character is an alcoholic, and a supporting character shoots up heroin. One character's extreme inebriation precedes an uncomfortable sex scene in which the matter of her consent is unclear.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that while this dark, disturbing comedy may be funny, it's very different from star Seth Rogen's other R-rated raunchfests. It has all of the language, strong sexual content (including full-frontal male nudity), drinking, and drug use of Judd Apatow-style comedies but doesn't have any of their underlying heart. Plus, it has some scenes of brutal violence and a sex scene in which the main female character is so drunk that the encounter could easily be seen as an assault. While mature teens and grown-ups will likely understand that the main character isn't being presented as a hero, it's still not appropriate for young people.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byZhash December 15, 2012

Only a few funny parts.

Rated R for pervasive language, graphic nudity, drug use, sexual content and violence.
Parent of a 11 year old Written byScribbleMuse November 7, 2009

Very funny, yet also very disturbing--ADULTS ONLY

Well, I totally agree with the CommonSense review. I laughed quite a lot at this movie, but some of the funniest part also made me feel very uncomfortable. Hu... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bymasonlackey January 15, 2011

all around insane

like i said all around insane and its dark humor will catch your eye just hope it doesnt catch your kids eye because in my mind thats robbing their childhood 5... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byStevie111 April 4, 2012

Very mature dark comedy

Older teens should be able to handle this. Although this is definitely an adult movie.

What's the story?

The Forest Ridge Mall offers shoppers a pleaseant place to spend their money and their time -- all under the watchful eye of Ronnie Barnhardt (Seth Rogen), the mall's head of security. But when a flasher invades the mall's paradise, Ronnie takes it upon himself to get the offender before the police (headed by Ray Liotta) do, all the better to win the heart of his cosmetics counter dream girl Brandi (Anna Faris). Is this challenge what Ronnie needs to change his life -- or is it just the start of more problems?

Is it any good?

Written and directed by Jody Hill, Observe and Report is a dark comedy that goes far, far over the edge. But Hill's headlong plunge into dark, disturbing comedic territory is somehow sure-footed enough to keep him from stumbling too badly. Some viewers will see the film as a cold, clear-eyed satire of Ronnie's character, while others may see it as a celebration of his character -- which is, one hopes, not the point.

Rogen's work as Ronnnie is strong and deeper than you'd think; Ronnie's a fool and a weakling, but he occasionally has flashes of decency, and Rogen captures Ronnie's struggle toward goodness with the befuddled look of a dumb, loyal dog. Observe and Report is decidedly not for kids (try Paul Blart: Mall Cop instead...or don't), but grown-ups with a taste for the bizarre and bleak will find it as haunting as it is hilarious.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the movie links violence and comedy. Why are some of the violent scenes funny? Do you think everyone would find them funny? What's the impact of seeing violent images in the media? Families can also discuss how the movie portrays the drunken sex scene. How did that scene make you feel? Do you think moments like that should be treated as comedy? How is this movie different from Seth Rogen's other films? Which do you like better?

Movie details

  • In theaters: April 10, 2009
  • On DVD or streaming: September 22, 2009
  • Cast: Anna Faris, Ray Liotta, Seth Rogen
  • Director: Jody Hill
  • Studio: Warner Bros.
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Run time: 82 minutes
  • MPAA rating: R
  • MPAA explanation: pervasive language, graphic nudity, drug use, sexual content and violence

For kids who love comedies

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