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‘The Watch’ loses sight



Article Published: Aug. 2, 2012 | Modified: Aug. 7, 2012
‘The Watch’ loses sight

From left, Jonah Hill, Ben Stiller, Richard Ayoade and Vince Vaughn star in ‘The Watch.’



Since when do inanimate objects suffer identity crises?

And no, I’m not referring to the cast of “Twilight,” but rather movies themselves.

The new sci-fi comedy, “The Watch,” the title for which looks kind of like “Twilight” if you squint hard, was originally named “Neighborhood Watch,” but changed by the PR folks at 20th Century Fox in light of the Trayvon Martin murder in Florida, the suspect for which was a neighborhood watch coordinator.

The film’s teaser trailer shows a group of overzealous neighborhood watchmen comically cruising their ’hood in Ray Bans and a minivan, eyeing their neighbors accusingly as Dr. Dre plays in the background, and then roughly accosting an egg-throwing teenager.

Since the teaser didn’t reveal the movie’s plot, namely a bunch of suburbanites trying to thwart an alien invasion, Fox thought audiences might get the wrong idea. It was renamed “The Watch,” which sounds more like a “Pulp Fiction” spin-off starring Christopher Walken, and the subsequent trailers seemed funnier than the first.

The name change was a matter of politically correct circumstance, but regardless of the title, “The Watch,” directed by Akiva Shaffer (“Hot Rod”), doesn’t know what it wants to be – PG-13 or rated R, sci-fi comedy or raunchy bromance. It never quite knows, and while there are some genuinely funny moments, due mainly to its talented and often hilarious leads, the results are uneven, leaving audience members with a “Well, that could’ve been better” sort of feeling.

Ben Stiller (“The Royal Tenenbaums”) is Evan, a busybody suburbanite with an outstanding level of community pride. His town? The small community of Glenview, Ohio. His workplace? The buy-in-bulk metropolis of Costco.

When a Costco security guard (Joe Nunez, who also played a security guard in “Bridesmaids”) is brutally murdered during the graveyard shift, Evan is less than impressed with the police’s efforts to track down the killer. So, he takes matters into his own hands, forming a neighborhood watch with fellow residents Bob (Vince Vaughn, “Wedding Crashers”), Franklin (Jonah Hill, “Superbad”) and Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade, TV’s “The IT Crowd”).

But the citizens on patrol get more than they bargained for, when they realize the perpetrator is, in fact, a malevolent alien. Further, they’re led to believe that there are other aliens about, disguised as humans, and, soon enough, everybody seems suspect.

The plot’s pretty predictable, and a couple of twists are anything but. Most of the funny bits are too few and far between, mainly derived from the group’s conversational banter, including a hilarious car-singing scene with the boys trying to keep up with Bachman Turner Overdrive’s “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet.”

“The Watch” mainly works on the buddy comedy level, with Stiller, Vaughn, Hill and Ayoade making a fun ensemble. But most of the film’s other gags only solicit a chuckle or two, which is unfortunate, considering the cast’s potential.

Adding to the unevenness is a tacked-on subplot involving Evan’s wife (Rosemarie DeWitt, “Rachel Getting Married”) trying to conceive, as well as a sense that this rated R feature was meant to be PG-13, which is odd, because usually it works the other way around. There are a few arbitrary instances of gratuitous swearing and nudity, seemingly thrown in for the hell of it, which feel strangely out of place.

It its inexplicable inconsistency, “The Watch” loses sight, squandering its talented cast and entertaining premise.

“The Watch,” rated R for some strong sexual content, including references, pervasive language and violent images, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, visit http://www.mountaintimes.com/movies.


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