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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Watch

Starting off the 59 films released last week, we have a crushingly disappointing science fiction comedy. I know. What are the odds?

Science fiction comedies are clearly hard to do. For every Men in Black, we seem to have a hundred Men in Black 2s. Sadly, The Watch is far, far closer to the latter than the former. All four of the gentlemen in the poster to the left have been funny at various times in their careers, but you wouldn't think so based on the evidence on display here.

The premise of The Watch is, like so many high concept misfires, really rather promising: a group of dopey guys form a neighbourhood watch to protect their neighbourhood from petty crimes but soon find themselves protecting the world itself from an alien invasion. Nothing spectacular, but plenty of potential. It's a pity then that no one let the filmmakers know that you actually have to do something with a promising premise, you can't just let it lie there.

"Lie there" is unfortunately the operative phrase here. The Watch is, more than anything else, simply one of the laziest films released this year. The plot is under-developed to the point that it would be charitable to so much as call it a "story" and the characters are less fully developed characters, more one-note caricatures of its actors' better roles. And, holy hell, is it hopelessly and disastrously unfunny.

SNL director Akiva Schaffer and his screenwriters - including Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg - have seemingly decided that rather than coming up with halfway decent gags they would rather simply let their four main cast members just do their thing. This does, of course, mean that the screenplay was either written after its principles were cast or it was completely ignored once they came on board, but either way, this looks like improvisation at its worst.

Jonah Hill and Richard Ayoade come off best but the latter is effectively just a less funny version of his IT Crowd character, while the former is basically just playing a less funny version of Nick Frost's character in Spaced. Add to the fact that the film shares a similar premise with the low-budget Brit flick, Attack the Block and you have to wonder if the whole thing isn't just an awfully misjudged homage to better British comedy.

Ben Stiller, on the other hand, is simply incredibly bland. He is largely the straight man in the film with the usual nebbishy klutziness that he's vaguely known for, only this time slightly less so. This is a far, far way away from his career high in Zoolander.

And then there is Vince Vaughn. Remember the really rather funny Vince Vaughn from Dodgeball and The Wedding Crashers? Well, that Vince Vaughn is gone. In his place is this weird parody of who Vince Vaughn used to be but with his motor-mouth trade mark turned up to such ear-splitting levels that it has gone straight past funny and is continuing to plummet into one of the most gratingly annoying comedy shticks since Adam Sandler decided to go "full retard" and full misogynist however many years ago it was now.

Without Vaughn, The Watch is simply a watchable but entirely forgettable mediocre slice of scifi comedy - with him though, it has become one of the most irritating films released this year. Give it a skip.

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