31 August 2012

Review: The Watch

(Dir: Akiva Schaffer, 2012)

Tired. That’s pretty much the best way to describe The Watch. Everything about it is tired - the plot, the comedy, the action, the sentiments. It is a complete mish-mash of genres as it strives to be an adult comedy / alien invasion / action / horror / male-bonding hybrid. Not original unfortunately but it probably worked better in this format than if it was just a comedy or an alien invasion movie. That is to say it worked at being mediocre.

The cast seem to be going through the motions. When a comedian is not that outstandingly funny to start with it doesn’t take many repeats of them doing “their thing” before they start to get boring, as their comedic strength turns into an annoyance. I feel this way about three of the four leads, particularly Ben Stiller. He has had his moments - Dodgeball, Zoolander, The Royal Tenenbaums, Meet the Parents - but usually he’s just playing mildly altered variations of the characters in these films, who generally irritate rather than amuse. Fortunately he’s playing the straight man here and he’s ok; a little more bearable than usual. But how different is this role to the characters he plays in Tower Heist or Night At the Museum really?

Vince Vaughn also feels like he’s continually playing the same arrogant Average Joe character which has never been overly funny, but for some reason I’ve never minded him as much. Jonah Hill also seems to be approaching this cusp of over repetition so I hope he can make something of the recognition he received for his dramatic turn in Moneyball before we get bored of seeing him. These three do have reasonable chemistry together and Hill is the funniest of them but only really because his character is the weirdest. Richard Ayoade doesn't fit into the above mentioned criteria for me as I've never seen him in anything (directing Submarine doesn't count), but he plays the outsider of the group and does an ok job with it, yet at times this character feels a little jarring compared to the rest of the group.

Ultimately the issue is that the script is not particularly good and so the film’s really not that funny. There are a few good one-liners and a couple of decent visual jokes, but they generally stem from random things or product placement references (well done to Costco for being featured so strongly and positively!). But most of the humour is of the stupid overly sexual nature, the sort of which I’ve started to become pretty damn bored of. I mean, how many dick jokes does one film really need? But then there was a lot of loud laughter in the cinema throughout so either I just didn’t get it or I was watching it with an audience who lap the dumb stuff up?

The aliens themselves are fairly interesting and pleasingly the film doesn’t shy away from showing us a bit of gore. We’re not given too many scenes with the aliens and the balance of this is about right, as it would otherwise be an easy way to ruin things since the film is trying to be a comedy at heart. Yeah there’s too much cgi and the action isn’t up to much but that's to be expected. The whole male bonding subtext felt like it was only there because these days everyone else is including it. Writers, it’s not always necessary!

The Watch is watchable and entertaining in a very average way. But that’s the problem as it doesn’t have a single new or original idea. The characters are bland facsimiles of what these actors normally do, most of the comedy is too dumb to even be funny and the plot is achingly unoriginal. The trailer makes this all pretty clear so my expectations were set appropriately low. Know this and you shouldn’t be disappointed.

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