July 28, 2012

Movie Review: The Watch (2012)

The Watch is an interesting failure of a movie. It is not a complete waste, but it certainly suffers from poor pacing, being underwritten, and suffering from a poor promotional campaign brought about by that unfortunate incident in Florida (we all know what it is and I would like to avoid talking about it). Yes, those promotional issues began early in its promotion cycle when the movie's title was changed from The Neighborhood Watch to simply The Watch. Not a drastic change, but a necessary one under the circumstances. If only to had stopped there.

I am about to discuss other issues I have with the promotion and while I think the problems are tied to what happened, I cannot be sure. With that said, I cannot help but believe there has to be a connection, the full trailers and ads took a vastly different tone than the teaser and seemed to give away what could have been a big reveal in the movie. The first trailer revealed the cast as suburban tough guys cruising the neighborhood looking for ne'er do wells. It looked funny based on the brief clip, but then the full trailer arrived. The full clip revealed the new title and the fact that this movie was an alien invasion comedy. Sure, it rather looked like fun, but wouldn't it have been better to reveal that in the movie?

Perhaps more in retrospect that when I first saw it, but the aliens should not have been seen until the movie. I mean, the first, maybe, twenty-minutes of the movie does not even reference them, maybe hint at, but nothing as blatant as the trailer. I kept thinking how great the reveal would have been had it actually happened in the film.

The movie opens with the introduction of Evan (Ben Stiller), a perpetual do-gooder who thinks about the community at the expense of just about everything else. He takes great pride in his position as manager of the local Costco and is very happy when he learns his Mexican night guard passes his American citizenship exam. He also leads all sorts of clubs around town from jogging to learning Spanish. One night things change when the guard is brutally murdered.

He takes it upon himself to start up a neighborhood watch to catch the killer. Unfortunately, the only people to respond to his rallying cry are the obnoxious mancave owner Bob (Vince Vaughn), the apparent sociopath Franklin (Jonah Hill), and the odd, recent divorcee Jamarcus (Ricard Ayoade). What follows is an awkward bonding period for this misfit quartet as the investigate the guard's murder.

They soon discover that aliens have infiltrated their community. They take it upon themselves to find the source of the invasion and wipe it out. They want to save their community before it is too late.

I would be lying if I said it wasn't funny, it certainly has it's moments, but they are few and at between. The plot is a simple one that needs brisk pacing and strong characters to carry it through. Sadly, the movie progresses I fits and spurts with too much boredom filling in the cracks. The characters have some interesting quirks about them, but their moments come and go without leaving much impact. We see glimpses of Bob and his fatherly relationship with his daughter. It is comically complex and reveals that there is more to Bob than you think. There are similar moments with Evan and his wife (Rosemarie Dewitt). We learn something about Evan that he doesn't want to talk his wife about, it is a lesson on communication and openness that just goes by in a moment.

The Watch is a movie that could have and should have been a lot more fun than it is. Sure, I laughed a bit and was modestly entertained, but in the end I was left feeling empty and unfulfilled. A few more passes at the screenplay could have revealed more interesting characters and a more cohesive cinematic experience. The casting is perfect, these guys were just right for these roles, but they have so little to do that it feels like a waste. Special casting note for Richard Ayoade, I really dig this guy and hope to see him in more projects. Also, Will Forte was a trip as a local cop.

Co-written by Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, and Jared Stern, this is not a bad base, but I cannot help but think they cold have done better. I am not sure if they were rushed or what, but there is definitely plenty of room for interesting expansion here. Of course, the direction from Akiva Schaffer is a little on the lackluster side as well. I really wanted to like this and while I liked moments, it fell flat as a whole.

Not Recommended.

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