Lisa Miller

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August 2, 2012
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That's a wrap, as well as infantilism

When it comes to male-bonding comedies, you could do better than "The Watch," a film that reaches inside its pants for penis jokes, only to pull out turds.

Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill are potentially funny guys; however, in this film they are trading on our good will - no laughing matter at 10 bucks a pop.

Though the script was penned by Jared Stern, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, signs abound that the stars were attempting to improv and riff on whatever the written page presented - with mainly disappointing results. It's too bad, because a premise that has four dysfunctional suburbanites forming a neighborhood watch was loaded with potential.

Three of the main players, Ben Stiller as Evan, Vince Vaughn as Bob, and Jonah Hill as Franklin, are familiar to viewers, while the fourth, Brit comedian Richard Ayoade, plays Jamarcus, a wild card. He was given little opportunity to add value to this ensemble and is as ill-used as the film's awkward tale of extraterrestrial invasion.

When the story opens, we meet Evan, who tells us in voiceover that he is the happy resident of a small Ohio city. He's the enthusiastic member of numerous local clubs, and a frequent volunteer for good causes in addition to working his way up to become manager of the local Costco.

We know something's wrong with this picture after meeting Evan's pretty, neglected wife Abby (Rosemarie DeWitt).

These facts are momentarily forgotten when the Costco night watchman is brutally murdered while guarding the store. The killing, in which the victim is skinned, occurs off-camera, but I wondered why they bothered sparing us because buckets of blood covering the walls and roll-up Costco doors are very much on-camera.

Evan, who has no real friends, is concerned because the captain of the eight cops in his city admonishes its residents that the murder will only be solved if the community helps out. Since his store is now closed due to becoming a crime scene, Evan attempts to catch the killer by forming a neighborhood watch.

Three strangers enlist, but they are more interested in drinking beer and telling raunchy jokes in Bob's well-appointed man cave than they are in pursuing the killer. That is, until Evan shames them into going on a stake-out in front of his Costco store because "killers always return to the scene of the crime."

It's supposed to make us laugh when the three recruits choose to chug beers and prattle on while Evan attempts to maintain a serious watch. I'm pretty sure it's also meant to make us cringe when Bob pees in his can because Evan won't allow him to give their position away by stepping out of the car (although it's the only car in Costco's big, empty lot).

For at least half the movie, the watch's real foes are pubescent boys looking to pull pranks, old men brandishing shot guns, or the buffoon police captain determined to punish the buddies for their inept efforts.

The guys become somewhat engaged in hunting the killer after stepping in puddles of green goo. Bob fingers the stuff and puts his fingers in his mouth, reporting that it resembles human male ejaculate in both taste and consistency. Then they stumble across an alien death ray that looks like a motorcycle helmet merged with a bowling ball. While learning how it works, the guys aim the ray at an unsuspecting cow that subsequently explodes.

Eventually, they will confront the aliens, and learn that their brains are located in their outsized extraterrestrial genitalia.

The jokes, meant to display the state of male sexual angst, are bolstered by each man's personal story, but these are unfunny and inorganic to the characters, failing to justify the film's lazy jokes, or its ridiculous plot.

If this film represents the mindset of the average American male, then we ought to prevent it from going overseas where foreign baddies will soon learn it isn't bullets, but giant condoms, that cause the American man to quake in his boots.


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Aug 2, 2012 03:43PM Published Aug 2, 2012 03:40PM Copyright 2012 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.