Friday, July 27, 2012
Movie review: The Watch
An alien invasion probes juvenile comedy depths.
Early in The Watch, our quartet of concerned citizens (Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, and Richard Ayodae) are traveling along a country road in an SUV when they hit what they later discover is an alien. While investigating, they notice a puddle of mysterious green goo dripping from the crushed grill of the SUV. And so for the next few minutes, we get riffs on which bodily substances it resembles by texture, consistency, and taste.
That’s pretty much how the whole movie goes: Discover a piece of information about the aliens invading the idyllic suburb, make a crude joke, repeat. Raunchy comedies are a dime a dozen, and a cast this talented should have done more to distinguish it from the pack.
Director Akiva Schaffer has helmed nearly every single one of the Lonely Island’s incredible music videos, many of which debuted on Saturday Night Live. But this is his second feature (after the lowly Hot Rod) and neither film shows the clever edge he constantly displays in those shorts.
That’s not to say The Watch isn’t funny. It often is, and it’s a marked improvement over Hot Rod (a cult hit I’ll never understand), but The Watch feels incredibly lazy. As written by Jared Stern (with an assist from Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg), the movie feels as if every page just gave a set-up and the director just told everyone to start riffing.
This type of comedy can work if you’ve got a gifted troupe of actors and improvisers. A few years ago, Stiller, Vaughn, and Hill could consider themselves such. Now they seem to just stand around, cracking tired jokes about the male member and bodily functions. It’s all been done better in the past.
This trio used to be the ones who stole scenes in the likes of Anchorman, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, and Accepted, respectively. Now, as they’re content to repeat the same jokes over and over, a new set of actors steals the show. First, there’s Richard Ayodae, a British actor unknown to most American audiences. He’s reduced to playing the token black guy of the group (and he sadly disappears for large chunks of the movie). He makes the most of it with his bizarre antics that stand in contrast to his buttoned-up wardrobe.
Will Forte, who you’d think would be banished from the big screen forever after The Brothers Solomon and MacGruber, plays to his strengths as a minor player. He’s the town’s clumsy sheriff, who’s not above asking the community for help during an interview because, “We’ve only got, like, eight guys on the force.”
But the best of the supporting cast is easily Billy Crudup, playing a creepy neighbor the guys suspect of being an alien because he has no concept of personal space and says things like, “You’ve got nice skin” while staring seductively. He plays the character just right, without going too over the top. The rest of the cast could take a cue from him.
The movie also suffers from an intense desire to add some unnecessary gravitas, as Vaughn struggles to be a good dad and Stiller suffers from sterility. I often enjoy comedies that add a serious element to the proceedings, but this all feels shoehorned in.
Still, The Watch provides some laughs, but you’ve already seen most of the good jokes in the trailers and commercials. Best to save your money for some better comedy down the line. (My money’s on Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis’ The Campaign.)
For showtimes for The Watch, click here.