Friday, July 27, 2012

Movie Review: "The Watch" by Alex Schopp

Release: 20012
Director: Akiva Schaffer
Written By: Jared Stern, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg
Actors: Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, Richard Ayoade
Rated: R
Run Time: 98 min

If you see one film this year where they reference dicks and semen every ten seconds, I'd still probably see if there were any other options around than this one..

"The Watch" centers around a group of regular, everyday men looking for an escape from their day-to-day routines. When a murder takes place in their quiet little town, they take it upon themselves to form a neighborhood watch for the community. They all have their different reasons for joining, but overall, this group is the perfect answer for each of them. Initially, their objectives revolve somewhat around posting fliers and sitting on stake-outs, but mostly, they're just hanging out and drinking beers. But when they discover that an alien race has landed in their town and is killing members of the community, this group of incompetent suburbanites must come together to prevent an all-out alien invasion and annihilation.

First off, you can't really dig two sentences into this film without noting the language used in the film. I have zero hangups with any kind of vulgar or sexual language you want to use in your film - in many cases it is quite funny - but when you beat me over the head with it scene after scene, it gets very tiresome very quickly. It feels a bit exaggerated, but you really will be amazed by how frequently the characters in this film are referencing something that has to do with a penis or ejaculate. I suppose it works a few times and is good enough for a quick laugh or two, but 85% of the time it felt like they were forcing it and just trying to make sure we knew that they thought dick jokes were as funny as they did (I love a good dick joke, don't get me wrong, but I don't need an entire film revolved around it).

I'm not sure why they were there in the first place, but there was an older couple that left the theater I was in after about twenty minutes because they couldn't take the crass dialogue anymore. I hardly blame them.

I appreciated the concept of the film - four average Joe's trying to hold-off an alien attack. Pretty neat. Outside of that though, the overall story really felt like it was reaching for anything it could to turn this into a full-length movie. It felt repetitive and forced way too often, and while there were a good handful of watchable moments, I can already envision just how tedious a second viewing would feel. Ben Stiller doesn't help any of this either. I've never been a huge fan of his, but this might have been the most frustrated I can remember getting with one of his characters. While every other actor brought at least something a little different to the table, it was Stiller running through his repertoire of previous characters for the film. He's turned himself into such a caricature that I can't see past his go-to gimmicks, voices or facial expressions to see anything but Ben Stiller doing a bit. It was rather annoying and, again, felt like Stiller was trying way too hard to be funny.

That being said, there are some highlights in the acting/character department. Jonah Hill stood out as the overall best performer here, but it was actually the relationship between his and Vince Vaughn's characters that I found most surprising. They played great off of each other and it really felt like they had a good relationship. It was their scenes and loyalty to each other that provided me some of the most entertainment in the entire film. It was pretty easily the highlight of the entire film for me, and something that I would have been happy seeing much more of. And though I haven't seen much from British actor Richard Ayoade before, he did a capable job here. It feels like he's on the cusp of a mini-breakout sometime soon here, as he seems to have pretty good comedic timing and nice delivery. He wasn't used a whole lot in this film, but when he was present he seemed to have a good presence about him. I won't be surprised at all if we start to familiarize ourselves with his name in the near future.

Since the film had a lot to do with an alien invasion, I went into the film very curious what the effects would be like. We'd surely be getting a healthy dose of these creatures and their technology, and I was interested to see what they did with it. And as we'd have it, while a minor aspect, the effects were all quite good. The design of the aliens was nice, and it was nice to see a comedy film use enough of a budget to make the CG look respectable. It was actually quite well done and there wasn't a single memorable scene where I was wishing for more from the effects (which was nice, because just about every other aspect of the film had me doing so). They didn't go overboard in this department, but what they used they made good enough for any type of film. This is why the we see the Technical Proficiency score as high as we do, though it did lose points for the writing and acting in the film. There were redeeming qualities in both areas though, so it wasn't a total bust.

Some of the best scenes in the film were a a couple of video game feeling shoot-em-up scenes where they were fighting the aliens. If you're into video games, there's probably a nice clean way to say that last sentence, but hopefully the statement didn't lose any of its meaning. There are some really fantastic parts - I mean, almost scenes that make it worth going to see the film just for these scenes - with great, epic music, slow motion cameras, and guns blazing, killing off hoards of aliens. One specific moment at the end with Richard Ayoade's character gave me chills and had me excited for the first time in the whole film. They were fantastic scenes, but I'm not sure they knew just what they had, because unfortunately, said scenes only lasted about eight seconds. Just when I'd start to get hyped, they'd be done. These were the best moments of the film, but they tossed them away like they were nothing. I would have loved nothing more than for a few minute fight scene at the end with these characters just mowing down aliens. Instead, we got a couple seconds and otherwise just them running away the whole time. It was almost really epic; instead, it was just disappointing.

I'm not really sure what message this movie was trying to give (friendship and honor, maybe?), so I'm not really sure how well it worked. As far as alien comedies go though, this seemed like a slightly below-average installment. There were brief moments with various characters and scenes that came close to providing successes for the film, but overall, it just ended up too predictable and lazy for its own good. I saw the film hours ago, and I've already forgotten most of the various filler scenes throughout the middle of the film. It's incredibly forgettable and much too standard for a theater watch in my opinion. Since there are a few scenes that work - and Vaughn and Hill's characters in general - this will probably be a fine lonely night watch on Blu-Ray sometime. I wouldn't recommend it for a theater watch though, even for someone with more of a passion for these types of films than myself. For a movie with so many funny actors, the film provides way too few laughs.