Review of The Watch


Movie Review: "The Watch"

-- Rating: R (Strong sexual content, language, and violent images)
Length: 102 minutes
Release Date: July 27, 2012
Directed by: Akiva Schaffer
Genre: Comedy and Science Fiction

In "The Watch," an Ohio Costco manager, Evan (Ben Stiller), forms a neighborhood watch group after one of his store's security guards was found brutally murdered inside the store. Evan is very much a representation of everyman. He is a bit of a control freak, and he is frustrated by the lack of an intelligent investigation from local police officers Sergeant Bressman (Will Forte) and Chucho (Mel Rodriguez). His initial escapades with his comrades are at first an excuse to escape the routines of family life. He and his wife Abby (Rosemarie DeWitt) are having trouble starting a family, so he finds every excuse to avoid her, including leading a Spanish club and running club.

Evan's fliers looking for members attract only three guys, each with their own motivations. Bob (Vince Vaughn) is a stereotypical beer drinking buddy whose biggest worry is his hormonal teenage daughter. Vaughn adds his classic mumblecore style to the comedic mix, which makes some situations funny that shouldn't be. For instance, Evan's fertility problem is a common subject. He also gives spur-of -the moment nicknames to his team, calling Franklin "Frank-n-Beans" and Evan "Ever-ready." Franklin (Jonah Hill) is somewhat a loner because of a recent traumatic experience. He wanted to be a police officer but could not pass the psychiatric evaluation. Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade) provides a small, hilarious voice of reason for the most part, but usually goes along with the plans of the group. Recently divorced, he hopes to meet a nice damsel-in-distress.

The group has a funny fashion mishap involving flaming tiger jackets chosen to be their uniforms. They decide on a motto-no more murders-and set out on daily patrols, anxious to stop the smallest of crimes. Their capture of a little hoodlum that was egging a ball field leads to some silly exchanges at the police station. Although these well-intentioned attempts to protect their neighborhood are hilarious, the real fun comes when they learn that their small Ohio town is going to be the epicenter of an alien invasion. It turns out that Franklin-who lives with his mother-has a small hidden arsenal of weaponry in his bedroom. Everything from here on has a vibe like similar situations that occurred in "The Burbs."

The choice of Akiva Schaffer as the film's director probably stemmed from his work on popular "Saturday Night Live" short films. As the film's main setting is inside a Costco, it had the potential of becoming stale quickly. However, there are some scenes that make one forget the setting, it's just not important to the action. In a way, the film succeeds because individual scenes are like sketch comedy, however the cohesion is somewhat weak thanks to poor transitioning.

With Seth Rogen ("Knocked Up") as a main contributing writer to the script, it is no surprise that the humor can be downright crude at times. While they plot their alien surveillance, the group spends a lot of time in Bob's man cave, drinking bear and playing a game of one-upmanship that would be expected from a group of junior high boys. There is no lack of curse words and the watch group often makes use of colorful innuendo, especially concerning male private parts. Sometimes the conversation is not so subtle. For instance, there is a scene that compares an alien secretion to one from human beings. It is part of a running joke about the green slime that was prominent on Nickelodeon, and it becomes far from kid friendly. If you're easily offended, then this film may not be for you. However, the cast is skilled at delivering even the most disgusting lines in a manner that illicit a few hard chuckles.

There is some pretty graphic violence in the film, much of which seems unnecessary. One scene involves finding an alien in the Costco. Evan puts practically a whole clip into its body, while causally discussing it with his buddies. Another occurs when they discover a weapon left by a good guy alien. As they fumble with it in a field, it accidentally discharges, blowing a nearby cow into flying meaty bits.

The funniest reveal of all concerns the weakness used to defeat the aliens. Whoever came up with this one must have some major issues. Luckily, that often translates into some fun comedy.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.