At The Movies

The Watch - Interesting premise, but film falls short

"The Watch"

"The Watch"

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This two saw blade movie gives the audience no reason to plunk down the admission money. You may safely skip the details if you like and go on with your life.

“The Watch” has an interesting premise. An alien advance party burrows into the ground beneath a Costco warehouse store and does some exploration while awaiting the main alien horde to arrive. The Costco is in a small town in Ohio that is made to seem shallow, boring and provincial by the sophisticated Hollywood writers. The writers haven’t decided if they are writing a comedy, an alien adventure or “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe?” and we in the audience are just as mystified.

Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg collaborated on the writing chore for “Superbad,” “The Green Hornet” and “The Pineapple Express” with uneven but not universally disastrous results. “Superbad” in particular, which also featured Jonah Hill, was a brilliant success. Many enjoyed “The Pineapple Express,” but “The Green Hornet” was almost unwatchable. Jared Stern, most famous for penning “Mr. Poppers Penguins,” joined this duo for “The Watch.” One wonders what the producers had in mind when they put this writing team together. The result was un-funny as a comedy, un-exciting as an alien action flick and vapid as cutting social commentary. This script should never have seen the light of day.

The director of this exercise in futility was awarded the control of a $68 million budget and clearly had no idea what to do with that much money. His previous Hollywood directing experience was with a film called “Hotrod.” I never heard of it either. He did not have the stature to demand the very best from his much more famous actors and in the large they did not deliver their best work. Of course, with the lines they were given to recite, it is problematical as to what could have been done.

Among the leading actors, only Ben Stiller seemed to be at the top of his game. He is a powerful enough personality and an experienced enough professional that he can produce a reliable performance regardless of his direction. He is always Ben Stiller and you never get some lesser version of him.

Poor Vince Vaughn cannot say the same thing. He needs to be directed to bring out his best, but this time he is left on his own and it shows.

Saddest of all is Jonah Hill. He had every reason to be glad to be reunited with the writers of his breakthrough movie, “Superbad.” He has evolved over the intervening years, becoming more rounded and just plain better as an actor. Witness last winter’s “Money Ball” where he had a dramatic role and excelled. His writers have left him with more or less the same role he filled as a teenager, but less brilliantly written. He tried to play down his talent, but seemed to keep floating above the material. It is past time for Hill to stop with the dimwitted bungler role.

This one hour and 42 minute R rated (for language and a totally un-necessary orgy scene with lots to see) comedy misses on every count, acting, writing and directing. The producers will be punished in the wallet for their efforts. Good.

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