What if the powers that be produced a comedy and everyone involved forgot to bring the funny? That’s basically the problem with Akiva Schaffer’s The Watch, a feeble-minded, desperately unfunny alien invasion comedy. Despite a fine cast and decent production values, the film grinds on with everyone improvising like mad to try to mine humor where there is basically nothing there. Even at 102 minutes, the film seems interminable.
The Watch (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
Directed by Akiva Schaffer
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 102 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish, French
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: November 13, 2012
Review Date: November 13, 2012
When the night watchman at his Costco franchise turns up murdered (skinned alive), manager Evan (Ben Stiller) decides to organize a community watch for the small city of Glenview, Ohio, but only three others show up: Bob (Vince Vaughn) who’s having parenting issues with his rapidly maturing daughter, man-child Franklin (Jonah Hill) who’s been rejected from the local police force, and newly-from-England Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade). With no help at all from local police sergeant Bressman (Will Forte), the four men through their nightly patrols uncover an alien plot to take over Earth, but finding anyone to believe them or help them is definitely a mission impossible.
The film’s troubled production history boasts a script by Jared Stern that was later reworked by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. Even with all those hands and the improvisational skills of the star cast, there is very little that’s the least bit amusing. There are tons of penis jokes and lots of profanity to be found, and there are some orgies and teen parties to interrupt the inept patrols of the quartet of bunglers. After they think they’ve killed an alien (Doug Jones), what do the guys do? They take a series of snapshots and videos doing all kinds of wacky things to the corpse instead of sending for help or reporting their findings to state or federal employees. It’s all done in the spirit of farce, of course, but if only it was funny! There is one really bright, hilarious line that springs from a plot-based standpoint, but so as not to spoil its impact for those who will rent this or see it on pay cable, nothing more about it will be said. The story breaks down when an alien in disguise is discovered among the central cast, but by that point in the story, there’s little reason to care. The film’s final quarter hour, of course, is the explosive face-off between the aliens and the watch group, but it’s just a noisy, fiery way to end the movie, an ending one could see coming from very early on.
Ben Stiller plays his usual straight man to everyone else’s loony tunes, but he does get to utter that one memorable line that hits home so spectacularly. Vince Vaughn is his usual loud-mouthed hipster, and Jonah Hill likewise repeats the potty-mouthed juvenile we’ve seen him play in so many movies. Richard Ayoade is a fresh face to this kind of lowbrow action farce, but he doesn’t add anything particularly inspired. Rosemarie DeWitt plays Ben Stiller’s wife with little chemistry between them and a subplot about his impotency that seems to come way out of left field and constantly intrudes on the brainless zaniness of the rest of the film. Will Forte makes the most of his jerky cop character, but he’s given few chances to let his improv skills take flight. Erin Moriarty plays Vaughn’s rebellious daughter but at least her subplot ties into the alien invasion main plot though how it figures in is a late movie revelation that also lacks inspiration.
The film’s theatrical 2.35:1 aspect ratio is delivered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Though sharpness is above average, the movie never achieves that breathtaking high definition pop that characterizes the best transfers. Weaker than expected contrast may be the culprit. Color is certainly consistently hued, and flesh tones appear natural throughout. Black levels are good but not great, and shadow detail is mostly fine. The film has been divided into 32 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix doesn’t have the impressive spread of a comic action movie (this is no Tropic Thunder) but instead stays mostly front stage-specific apart from the Christophe Beck music score and the raunchy rap tunes which punctuate the soundtrack and spread into the fronts and rears. The LFE channel does get some action with those heavily-bassed rap tunes and in the explosive finale along with a sequence where the watch group blows up a cow and other things, but otherwise it has little to do. Dialogue has been well recorded and has been placed in the center channel.
All of the featurettes are presented in 1080p.
There are twelve deleted/extended scenes which can be viewed individually or in one 24 ¾-minute grouping.
The film’s gag reel runs 3 ¾ minutes.
There are 5 ¾ minutes of Jonah Hill improvising comments to use in place of scripted dialogue.
“Watchmakers” is the most substantial of the featurettes: a 12 ¼-minute EPK featurette on the making of the movie featuring comments from producer Shawn Levy, director Akiva Schaffer, and stars Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, Will Forte, Richard Ayoade, and Rosemarie DeWitt.
“Alien Invasion” finds the stars, the producer, and director commenting on how they would react to a real alien invasion in this throwaway 1 ¾-minute vignette.
“Casting the Alien” introduces Doug Jones who plays the main alien in the movie being interviewed in character (subtitles used to translate his responses).
The film’s theatrical trailer runs 2 ½ minutes.
The disc contains a promo trailer for Chasing Mavericks.
The second disc in the package is a combination DVD/digital copy of the movie.
2.5/5 (not an average)
Fans of the stars (who have made far better movies together and separately) may want to give The Watch a rental, but this is one of the year’s more disappointing comedies and certainly one of the lesser efforts on all of their resumes.