'Watch' prowls all-too-familiar territory
A group of neighbors (Jonah Hill, Ben Stiller, Richard Ayoade and Vince Vaughn) discovers aliens on the block in the comedy "The Watch."
It's already late July and 20th Century Fox has finally released the sort of brainless, unoriginal gross-out comedy that studios are supposed to unleash on us early in the summer.
By my count, "The Watch" possesses not a single original joke or even a smirk of cleverness. Not even the direction by Akiva Schaffer pumps much vitality into this rote vehicle for Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill.
Starring: Ben Stiller, Jonah Hill, Vince Vaughn, Will Forte, Rosemarie DeWitt, Billy Crudup
Directed by: Akiva Schaffer
Other: A Twentieth Century Fox release. Rated R for language, sexual situations and violence. 89 minutes
But it's unchallenging, easily digestible R-rated hokum boasting a lazy Seth Rogen screenplay that could easily be crippled by removing just two words: "great" and "awesome!"
"The Watch" stars Stiller as Evan, a manager of the Costco store in Glenview, Ohio.
I'm not sure how the Costco company got involved in this production, but whoever approved corporate participation apparently didn't mind that in Rogen's screenplay, Costco gives its security guards handguns, but provides no training on how to use them properly.
At least that's what a Costco security guard says right before something kills him, splatters blood all over the store and removes his skin.
The local cops led by Sgt. Bressman (Will Forte) are clueless, prompting Evan to do what he does best: form a group of community people with similar interests.
His attempt to launch a community neighborhood watch to catch the Costco killer fizzles. Evan only gets three guys to come to the organizational meeting: party happy Bob (former Buffalo Grove resident Vaughn), local police candidate reject Franklin (Hill) and a British-accented late arrival named Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade).
It ruins nothing to reveal (as do the commercials and press materials) that hostile aliens have landed in Glenview, and it doesn't take long for Evan and his watchers to realize that they are among us.
(Oh, in case some of the bulbs in the audience are a bit dim, an alien actually announces "We are among you!" to the watch guys, because why would a hostile, invading alien bother to keep that a secret?)
The sense of paranoia that creeps into the neighborhood watchers could have been tapped for building great comic tension. Instead, the paranoia component gets kissed off in a minor montage to the tune of the Doors' "People are Strange."
Evan becomes suspicious of the new neighbor across the street. Paul (Billy Crudup) has a fixation for how well Evan keeps himself fit. He tells Evan he has nice skin.
Yep, suspicious for sure.
"The Watch" (the original title "Neighborhood Watch" had to be changed for legal reasons) traffics in meeting our base expectations.
Vaughn plays the same comic motormouth he's been honing for the past 10 years.
Stiller recycles his standard uptight control freak on the verge of blowing a gasket.
Hill does the best at breaking comic bad by turning Franklin into a knife-wielding nut job with a fierce resentment against the cops.
"The Watch" halfheartedly tries to give its main characters some emotional depth. Bob constantly talks about his wonderful daughter Chelsea (Erin Moriarty), whom he exchanges screams with when they have a chat.
Evan is trying to get his wife (Rosemarie DeWitt) pregnant, but hasn't told her his swimmers pack no fireworks.
So much for character-driven entertainment.
In between jokes about green goop and urinating in beer cans, "The Watch" squanders its one good idea, that the alien creatures (resembling the skeletal "Alien" mother) carry their brains in their scrotums, a dangerously male concept that Rogen's screenplay doesn't know what to do with.
"Now it's awesome!" Bob says to his pals.
No, it's not.
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