Sunday, September 29, 2013

It Came From The Video Store: The Watch

The Watch was directed by Akiva Schaffer and written by Jared Stern, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg.

Schaffer is a member of The Lonely Island comedy group and directed many of their short films such as Lazy Sunday. Rogen and Goldberg have co-written many high profile comedies including Pineapple Express and Superbad. One would think that with a pedigree like that the finished product would have been better, but I guess you can't hit one out of the park every time at bat.

Very similar in tone and feel to the recent The World's End. Actually I guess it's the other way around, since The Watch came first.

The film was originally titled Neighborhood Watch, but it came out shortly after the Trayvon Martin shooting so the studio hurriedly changed the name, lest anyone be offended. Which makes perfect sense, because a film about an alien plot to take over Earth is just way too similar to a real life racially charged shooting.

They needn't have bothered changing the name for sensitivity's sake. The only people who'll be offended by this film are fans of good comedy.

It's not the worst film I've ever seen, but it's definitely bland. The script is bland, the four leads are bland, the aliens are bland… everything about it seems like it was halfheartedly executed with the least amount of effort possible. Worst of all there are few if any laughs.


Lastly, the DVD proudly proclaims it's a ruder, cruder and lewder unrated version. I have no idea what content was added, but whatever it was it didn't help.

SPOILERS, I GUESS.

The Plot:
Evan Trautwig (Ben Stiller) is an uptight manager of a Costco in Glenview, Ohio. When one of his security guards is brutally murdered, he takes it upon himself to form a Neighborhood Watch.

Evan only manages to recruit three other members: construction worker Bob (Vince Vaugn), high school dropout and cop wannabe Franklin (Jonah Hill) and British divorcee Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade). Unfortunately for Evan the others only see the Watch as an excuse to drink beer and hang out.

During a stakeout the Watch discovers an actual extraterrestrial. They theorize the aliens are killing people and wearing their skins in order to pass as human. Unfortunately they realize the authorities will never believe them.

Eventually Jamarcus reveals that he's an alien but is siding with humanity after experiencing our culture. He tells the Watch that his fellow aliens are building a transmitter under Evan's Costco (of course) which will signal a fleet that will land on Earth and destroy it.

The Watch then has to defeat the aliens and destroy the transmitter in order to save the Earth.

Pros:
• Hmm… honestly I got nothing.

Oh, I know! I wish my city had a Costco. I've heard good things about them.

• I've never been a fan of Vince Vaughn and absolutely do not understand his popularity, but that said I will admit that he gives his all in this film. He seems like he's practically spraining a hamstring trying to wring what little funny there is out of the script. Unfortunately he just doesn't have enough material to work with.

Cons:
• The main actors in the film all play the same type of characters they've played many, many times before. Ben Stiller plays an uptight control freak, Vince Vaughn plays an annoying man child and Johan Hill plays his typical borderline psychotic weirdo. No one brings anything new to the table.

Richard Ayoade fares the worst of the group. If you're a fan of his work as Moss on The IT Crowd, prepare to be massively disappointed here. 
He's given very little to do and seems like he's in a completely different film. He spends the majority of the movie just standing motionless and looking genuinely puzzled as to why he's there. Hopefully he'll be given a chance to show off his talent in a better movie soon.

Will Forte is also in the film and plays a cop exactly the way you'd expect him to play one in a Saturday Night Live sketch.

The only standout in the entire cast is Billy Cruddup, who plays Evan's creepy neighbor Paul, who may or may not be an alien. Unfortunately he's in the movie for about five minutes total.

• The aliens are about as unmemorable as the cast. Their design looks like a hundred other aliens you've seen in films in the past twenty years.

The Watch must have set the record for all-time most product placements within a single movie. There's Durex condoms, brand name beer galore… hell, a good chunk of the movie's even set inside the cavernous space of a Costco.

• Evan and his wife Abby are having marital problems, stemming from the fact that he's keeping his sterility a secret from her as well as spending all his free time with the Neighborhood Watch. Their marriage seems on the brink of disaster until Abby finds out there are actual aliens in their neighborhood. Suddenly all is well and their marriage is stronger than ever.


In a similar vein, Bob's struggling with raising a rebellious and promiscuous teenaged daughter who constantly sneaks out of the house and parties all night. She instantly drops the slutty act and becomes becomes the perfect daughter again after finding out her boyfriend is an alien bent on our destruction.
 

OK, I don't expect a lot of realistic drama in a sci-fi action comedy like this, but these half-hearted resolutions seem a little too simplistic.

• In the third act Jamarcus reveals that he's actually an alien and is wearing human skin as a disguise.

How exactly does this work? How long could an alien wear a human's skin before it started to rot and fall apart? Will Jamarcus have to periodically kill and skin another human in order to continue passing for one of us? Will the Neighborhood Watch look the other way as he does so? Or will he eventually just drop the disguise and hide out in his natural form? Apparently it's none of our business, as this is ever touched upon.

• After Jamarcus reveals he's an alien, he says his race goes around the galaxy invading planets, destroying them and then moving on. No stealing our water or gold or other natural resources? They don't even want our women? They destroy other planets just because? What kind of a plan is that?

• One more thing about Jamarcus-- he betrays his own people and sides with humanity after a sexual encounter at Paul's orgy. What are the odds that a human's junk would be compatible with an alien's? Or that a sexual act that brings pleasure to a human would work on an alien as well? Especially since Jamarcus reveals that his race's brain is located in the crotch.

I give The Watch a very meh C-.

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