Combustible Celluloid
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With: Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, Richard Ayoade, Rosemarie DeWitt, Will Forte, Mel Rodriguez, Doug Jones, Erin Moriarty, Nicholas Braun, R. Lee Ermey, Joe Nunez, Liz Cackowski, Johnny Pemberton, Sharon Gee
Written by: Jared Stern, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg
Directed by: Akiva Schaffer
MPAA Rating: R for some strong sexual content including references, pervasive language and violent images
Running Time: 93
Date: 07/27/2012

The Watch (2012)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Noise in the Hood

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Director Akiva Schaffer (Hot Rod) doesn't seem to know what to do with this material. It lashes out all over the place, trying out gore, rude humor, character development, sexual situations, and product placement, by turns. It's as if the filmmakers were more concerned with the MPAA rating than with the audience. As a result, the movie follows in the footsteps of the inordinate number of alien invasion movies from the last few years: it doesn't really work.

Evan (Ben Stiller) is the manager of a Costco in a sleepy little Ohio town. After his night watchman is brutally murdered, Evan decides to form a neighborhood watch to find the killer. Loudmouth Bob (Vince Vaughn), Franklin (Jonah Hill) -- a reject from the police force -- and oddball Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade) sign up. But instead of the normal clues the group instead finds weird tentacles, green goo, and a powerful laser blaster. Before long, they realize that they are not up against powerful aliens. Can the foursome set aside their personal troubles long enough to band together and find a way to stop earth from being taken over?

Stiller plays his usual uptight schnook here, and the movie spends a great deal of time on a subplot about he and his wife trying to get pregnant; this stuff seems to have been added more to please the actor than to add anything to the story. Likewise, neither Vaughn nor Hill stretch much outside their usual routines, and the only laughs sound more like on-the-spot improv than anything written in the screenplay. Sci-fi fans will be the most disappointed: the aliens are the most boring things in the movie. (See Attack the Block instead.)

The movie made the news in February of 2012, when its marketing campaign coincided with a fatal shooting in Florida by a real-life neighborhood watch captain. The marketing strategy and title (formerly Neighborhood Watch) were quickly changed.

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