Although 'The Watch' has its moments of outright hilarity, mostly coming from the vulgar banter between the film's four leads, the jokes are too few and far between, spread unevenly across a variety of misfires which overstay their welcome. There is plenty of potential for creating something clever with a nice, warm gushy center in a story about four suburban men with nothing better to do but patrol their neighborhood with an attitude. And while trying to strut their stuff wearing blue jackets with a logo of a tiger's head and flaming wings. Instead, we have a series of unnecessary crudeness and immaturity that falls more on the disgusting side than on something witty. Added to that, the plot is oddly centered on a local Costco store, making the movie feel more like an extended 100-minute commercial than a genuine comedy.
Tapping into the buddy spirit of 'Ghostbusters' and placing it within an alien-invasion setup, the script from Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the pair behind 'Superbad' and 'Pineapple Express,' starts with the store manager of the aforementioned Costco. Evan (Ben Stiller) appears addicted to forming social clubs and goes out of his way to seem multi-cultural. It's easy to see the middle-aged suburbanite hides other personal issues, mostly ignores his supportive wife (Rosemarie DeWitt) who wants to work on making a family, and the guy is a bit of a control freak. Having seen pretty much every movie starring Stiller, his latest role is no stretch of the imagination, giving essentially the same performance, except seeming a bit older, more neurotic and compulsive, but less funny with each reincarnation. Granted, the star of 'Tropic Thunder' and 'Greenberg' is good at what he does, but the shtick is really wearing thin now.
Stiller is paired with another shtick figure in Vince Vaughn, whose one-act man-child portrayals are not only growing horribly stale but a little on the creepy side. His Bob McAllister pretends to be a concerned dad but really uses his membership in the new neighborhood watch, spearheaded of course by Stiller, as an opportunity to spy on his daughter. As a laid back dude with a man-cave constantly seen drinking but never drunk, the movie's many failings ultimately come from this character, a combination of an unfunny, immature parent with Vaughn's inability to make such unsavory personalities likeable. He has a few amusing lines, to be sure, but not enough to make one sit through an hour's worth of stupid behavior. The character's idea of honest communication is basically to be as crass as possible in any given situation, including one heart-to-heart scene with Stiller's Evan, but it really feels insensitive and the conversation awkward.
Surpassing both Stiller and Vaughn, are Jonah Hill and little-known British comedian Richard Ayoade. Hill brings a hilarious edge to his Franklin, a young man living with his mother who aspired to be a cop but rejected by the police force for failing a mental exam. Quirky and eccentric, with a healthy dose of the crazies makes for a fun character which he'll hopefully explore further in future, more dramatic projects. Ayoade plays recently divorced resident Jamarcus, a clueless and exceedingly friendly guy whose attention span is largely limited by cowardice and sexual fantasies. Having never seen or heard of the actor before, he makes a wonderfully memorable first impression as a good part of the film's enjoyment comes from his performance. Better still is a surprise appearance by R. Lee Ermey as the awry, old-kook Manfred yelling a laundry-list of obscenities at the neighborhood watch for mopping around his front lawn.
Director Akiva Schaffer, whose only other noteworthy credits outside of being a writer for SNL is helming another comedy flop in 'Hot Rod,' does decently well behind the camera, particularly when turning action sequences into a source of laughter. There's a great air of camaraderie between the cast, delivering much of the humor and raunchiness as if spur of the moment and improvised rather than scripted. It also helps to have an excellent song selection to play in the background, like Eazy-E's "Boyz In Da Hood" and N.W.A.'s "Straight Outta Compton" giving a slight nudge and jab at the idea that suburbia is some kind of gansta's paradise. But again, these few funny moments do little to save the big-budget comedy from itself as those improvised scenes quickly run out steam. In the end, much like the neighborhood watch seen in the movie, 'The Watch' is an unnecessary social gathering of lonely, unsatisfied men with fantastical delusions of their self-worth who ultimately provide little benefit to society.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment brings 'The Watch' to Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack. The first is a Region Free, BD50 disc while the second is a DVD/Digital Copy combo on the opposing panel. The package also comes with a code for an UltraViolet Digital Copy and a glossy slipcover. At startup, the disc goes straight to the main menu with full-motion clips and music.
'The Watch' debuts with a great-looking AVC-encoded transfer (2.35:1), taken directly from a digital source. The picture comes with an attractive, amber-warm palette full of rich, bold primaries everyone, as we'd expect from a comedy. Facial complexions are healthy and accurate with visibly revealing textural details. Overall, Barry Peterson's cinematography is really quite beautiful and eye-catching with a good deal to enjoy.
Contrast is stable and consistent with outstanding clarity, especially in daylight exteriors, though darker indoor scenes are none too shabby either. Black levels are generally clean and deep with excellent gradational detailing during nighttime and poorly-lit sequences, providing a bit of depth. A few spots, however, don't hold up quite as well, falling a tad flat and murky, but it's not enough of an issue to ruin the fun. Definition and resolution are pretty much what we'd expect from a comedy with strong, clearly-defined lines around clothing, hair and architecture. One or two scenes are not quite as sharp as others, and some very mild, negligible video noise does creep in a couple areas.
All in all, it's still a great-looking transfer.
In the audio front, the boys in blue, with their fire-winged tiger logo, bring their A-game and put on a fun show. Being a comedy, much of the activity is contained in the fronts, but once things start going nuts with crazy green-alien goo everywhere, the rears pick up the slack and deliver the goods. Discrete effects, like guns blasting away or debris from explosions, surround the listening area, and pans create a flawless, satisfying soundfield. The last quarter of the movie offers a great deal of fun and excitement.
Meanwhile, the front soundstage comes with precise, intelligible dialogue in the center, providing the banter between the actors clean intonation and clarity. Dynamics and acoustics are wide-spread with distinct separation and excellent range, creating a terrifically broad feel that fills the room. The music of Christophe Beck and the several song selections sound superb and detailed. Although not likely to shake the foundation of your house, low-frequency effects are effective with palpable authority during certain action-packed sequences. Overall, it's a very enjoyable lossless mix.
At times very funny and entertaining, 'The Watch' comes with more misfires than it does success, and much of that can be seen in the vulgar banter of the main cast. Starring Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, and Jonah Hill, the sci-fi action comedy ultimately fails to protect or even feel welcomed, offering little amusement outside of the plot of an alien invasion thwarted by a group of incompetents. The Blu-ray, on the other hand, comes with an excellent audio and video presentation to make the movie at least a serviceable rental. A good number of supplements are also fairly brief and inconsequential, which might satisfy the few fans out there but others will want to give this failed invasion a rental at best.