The Watch shoots mostly blanks

the_watch

The Watch – 2012

Directed by Akiva Schaffer
Starring Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, Rosemarie DeWitt, Richard Ayoade, R. Lee Ermey, Will Forte, Billy Crudup
Screenplay by Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Jared Stern

The original artwork disappeared  quickly
The original artwork disappeared quickly

A few weeks after the marketing campaign began for The Neighborhood Watch, a tragedy occurred in Florida that created a huge national stir.  That the collision of the fates of Neighborhood Watch volunteer George Zimmerman and Treyvon Martin also had an effect on this film.  They shut down its marketing campaign and withdrew all the marketing materials that they  could retrieve.  The movie, now called The Watch, was released on schedule July 27 and it very quickly sunk into obscurity.   Some, but not much of this had anything to do with the bad luck.   Most of it had to to with a lackluster screenplay, uninspired direction and uneven acting.

It’s not like there is no good stuff.  First and foremost is Ayoade, as the aloof, but strangely on top of things Jamarcus.  He is totally centered and a complete character.  I have enjoyed him on the IT Crowd, but something tells me that he will become much bigger, despite being in this mis-step.  If the film had been centered around his character, it would have been eminently more memorable.

When Vince Vaughn is inspired, like in Old School and Anchorman, he’s funnier than most.  When he is sleepwalking, like in The Dilemma, he’s part of the problem.  This time, he is about half-way there.  As the father of a teenage girl who is worried about every boy in school, he is surprisingly believable, even without the presence of his mostly absent wife.  As a boor who wants to pee in a can in the back of a minivan, he’s kind of an embarrassment to himself.

As police Seargent Bressman, Will Forte walks the line between annoyance and comic relief.  He succeeds, for the most part.  Rosemarie DeWitt is much more appealing than she was in the recent indy crap fest Your Sister’s Sister.  That’s not saying much.

Moving farther down the ladder of success, we have a script that feels like it’s been Frankensteined from an unambitious family film into an unambitious family film soaked in the filth of a gross-out comedy.  The combination actually takes away from the entire project.  Among the worst scenes are the football field, anything in the mini-van and the entire Billy Crudup sleazy neighbor story line.

Jonah Hill has to be kicking himself.  He turned down a role in Django Unchained to be in…this.  A seasoned veteran of Goldberg and Rogen films and scripts, he hits about half of the time.  Even so, it’s a depressing choice that he would sink back into the role of 3rd banana, especially when the 4th (Ayoade) is so much more consistently funny and somewhat fresher.

One of the most bankable nice guys in Hollywood over the last 15 years, Ben Stiller lately has fallen into the comfort zone of being the straightest arrow in each of his films.  He has no edge and literally exists just to have other people look funny.  The result is not dissimilar to Steve Carell in Seeking a Friend for the End of The World.  He is the least interesting thing on the screen.  Why devote the most time to him?  How much longer can Stiller keep going with this boring routine?  Well, at least we have Zoolander 2 to look forward to.

The least noteworthy aspect to the film is the direction.  There are very few scenes that stand out in a good way.  It’s just run of the mill comedy bull crap.  It’s watchable, but that is about it.  There is nothing here that deserves another major film budget.  B-Films, however…

(** out of *****)

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