The Watch
dir Akiva Schaffer
prd Shawn Levy, Tom McNulty
scr Jared Stern, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg
with Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, Richard Ayoade, Rosemarie DeWitt, Will Forte, Billy Crudup, Mel Rodriguez, Nicholas Braun, Erin Moriarty, R Lee Ermey, Doug Jones
release US 27.Jul.12, UK 24.Aug.12
12/US Fox 1h42
The Watch
Cool alien gadget: Hill, Stiller, Ayoade and Vaughn

dewitt forte crudup
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Watch This is an oddly foul-spirited comedy from writers Stern (Mr Popper's Penguins) and Rogen and Goldberg (Pineapple Express), who are usually more adept at finding character-based laughs than merely taking cheap shots. They clearly weren't in a playful mood when they wrote this.

Evan (Stiller) is an overachiever store manager who forms a neighbourhood watch group after a bizarre murder. His cohorts are frazzled dad Bob (Vaughn), gun-loving Franklin (Hill) and quirky Jemarcus (Ayoade), all of whom seem more interested in leering at women than keeping the community safe. But it soon becomes clear that this isn't just an ordinary killer: it's an alien invasion of earth that's starting in their Ohio suburb. Although the local cops (Forte and Rodriguez) see the watch team as the problem.

It's clear that this is heading for an effects-heavy climax that will strain the camaraderie between these knuckleheads, and it's hard to muster interest in such an empty cliche. More interesting are family-oriented side-plots in which Evan struggles to tell his wife (DeWitt) that he's sterile, while Bob tries to keep his teen daughter (Moriarty) away from a boy (Braun). At least these scenes provide some subtext, letting DeWitt steal the film by injecting real drama, being genuinely sexy and diving into the action.

Everything else is a squandered opportunity. Comedy is based on the "hilarious" notion that these men act like 12-year-olds, talking about sports and sex in the most simplistically rude ways imaginable. The only people who will find this funny are those who have an underdeveloped sense of their own sexuality, because most gags have gay overtones, hinting at a completely different kind of comedy. But before it gets interesting, the film is overrun with aliens.

In other words, the screenwriters couldn't be bothered to come up with anything remotely witty. Director Schaffer keeps the tone silly, but only rarely finds something that's actually amusing. And the central mystery is a throwaway gag that wastes everyone in the cast (especially Crudup as a suspicious neighbour). Leave the aliens out of the story and there might be something funny and telling in here. But then a major Hollywood studio would never fund that.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, innuendo 2.Aug.12

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© 2012 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall