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The Times
  • Movie review: 'The Watch' is unwatchable

  • After the slaying of Trayvon Martin, much worry and consternation went into 20th Century Fox’s decision to change the title of “Neighborhood Watch” to simply “The Watch.” Too bad the lame script didn’t merit the same level of trepidation.

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  • After the slaying of Trayvon Martin, much worry and consternation went into 20th Century Fox’s decision to change the title of “Neighborhood Watch” to simply “The Watch.” Too bad the lame script didn’t merit the same level of trepidation. It’s far more offensive than any remote connection someone might draw between a racially charged homicide and an imbecilic summer movie.
    Rote, crass and worst of all, totally laugh-free, it inspires you to exact your own brand of vigilante justice on the makers of a larcenous affair that picks the pockets of everything from “Alien” to “Men in Black” and “The Hangover.” The motive for Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s crimes against comedy are clearly abject poverty on the part of a pair of writers that went bankrupt after striking it rich with “Superbad.” In the years since, they’ve done nothing but perpetrate frauds like “Pineapple Express” and “The Green Hornet.” But that was penny ante compared to what they’ve wrought with “The Watch,” a Class 1 felony involving a mugging epidemic executed by stars Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill and Richard Ayoade.
    Obediently, the actors follow the writers’ every command – much to their own detriment – in adhering to a script that casts them as a quartet of neighborhood morons taking it upon themselves to police the tranquil streets of their upper-middle class Midwestern community. But instead of encountering the usual array of white-collar thieves and dog walkers failing to pick up their pet’s mess, they stumble upon nothing less than a full-out invasion by a hoard of body-snatching aliens that look like they wandered over from the set of “Prometheus.”
    The extraterrestrials aren’t so much a threat to humanity as they are an excuse for Rogen and Goldberg to fire off a cannon of pee and penis jokes that suggest the writers possess the scatological mindset of a 12-year-old. In fact, all four characters are pretty much defined by the size, state and functionality of their not-so-magic wands. Stiller’s Evan shoots blanks, Vaughn’s Bob overcompensates for his shortcomings, Hill’s Franklin self-satisfies and Ayoade’s Jamarcus longs for a little Chinese. No one, though, is as impotent as Rogen and Goldberg, who are anything but seminal in their obsession with semen. They repeatedly remind us that the alien goo feels like it, and they subject Hill (whose recent Oscar-nomination for “Moneyball” is relegated to a distant memory) to an E.T facial.
    Hilarious! Or at least the writers and director Akiva Schaffer (“Hot Rod”) seem to think so. Anyone with a semblance of a brain, however, will likely just sit their stunned by how unfunny they’ve rendered their four stars. It doesn’t take long for boredom to set in, and when it does, you’re forced to entertain yourself by counting how many movies “The Watch” rips off in the relatively short span of 100 minutes. I came up with more than a dozen, the most obvious being “The Hangover,” in that the story features four distinct personality types forced into an unexpected adventure that threatens their dignity and manhood. But where the guys in “The Hangover” shared a palpable chemistry, Stiller, Vaughn, Hill and Ayoade possess zilch. It’s like four different styles of comedy constantly working against one another. At least the actors are mildly appealing, as is Rosemarie DeWitt, stuck in the thankless role of Stiller’s amorous, but mostly absent, wife. She’s wasted; they’re wasted. But nothing is wasted more than our time and money on a “Watch” that doesn’t deserve to be seen in any neighborhood.
    Page 2 of 2 - THE WATCH  (For some strong sexual content, including references. pervasive language and violent images.) Cast includes Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, Richard Ayoade and Rosemarie DeWitt. Directed by Akiva Schaffer. 1 star out of 4
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