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Published: 2012-07-27 - 10:27:48
Movies : Reviews

The Watch Review

By Joe Lozito

Uptight Citizens Brigade

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1998 was a big year for both Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn. For Mr. Stiller, it was the year he truly broke-out as the definitive hapless Everyman in "There's Something About Mary", a role he continues to reliably play in big budget comedies into a second decade (that same year he also starred in the much more clever but largely overlooked "Zero Effect"). For Mr. Vaughn, 1998 was the year he tried something different as Norman Bates in Gus Van Sant's ill-fated - and ill-advised - "Psycho" remake. That venture turned out less well for Mr. Vaughn and he has reverted to his motormouthed best friend act ever since, with a success rate as scattershot as his jokes.

These are two talented funny men who have each found their niche in big screen comedies. And each is at their most uninspired in the half-baked alien invasion comedy "The Watch".

The lazy script, by Jared Stern, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg wastes no time setting up the premise. We are introduced to Evan Trautwig - a character whose description in the screenplay was surely "a Ben Stiller type"- a loyal husband, longtime Costco senior manager and complete control freak. One night his trusty night watchman is brutally murdered by what appears to be a wild animal. When the local police, represented with typical absurdist flair by Will Forte, prove ineffective (in fact, they make the cops from "Superbad" look super good), Evan does what any red-blooded American comedy protagonist with no friends, OCD and a secret he's hiding from his wife would do: he forms a neighborhood watch.

The neighborhood in question - Glenview, IL, standing in as Glenview, OH - is less than supportive. His first (and seemingly only) attempt to drum up volunteers saddles him with a ragtag cast of characters. There's Bob, Vince Vaughn at his most Vince Vaughniest, Franklin, played by Jonah Hill as if he's still trying to figure out what to do with his new, thinner self, and Jamarcus, comedian Richard Ayoade, standing out mostly because he's the least known of the bunch.

Director Akiva Schaffer all but hurls the plot forward as jokes are set up, lingered upon and forgotten. There are a few clever moments involving first contact with the alien invaders, but there's also a tired subplot involving Bob's daughter, an even tireder one featuring a perhaps-wisely uncredited Billy Crudup as a suspicious neighbor, and a rote soundtrack that dips into the NWA well not once but twice.

It's very possible to make a great supernatural action comedy (see "Ghostbusters"), but it ain't easy (see "Ghostbusters 2"). The film's R-rating is entirely unnecessary except that it gives the filmmakers a penis-joke safety net to fall back on when they run out of ideas, which is often. And when that doesn't work, the actors just yell ad libs over each other. These are all talented guys, but it turns out that it helps to have the foundation of a clever script to make a good comedy. Or one that's even "Watch"-able.

What did you think?

Movie title The Watch
Release year 2012
MPAA Rating R
Our rating
Summary This half-baked alien invasion comedy is just barely Watch-able.
View all articles by Joe Lozito
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