'The Watch' (PG-13)

 

A talented cast is wasted on a collection of low-brow jokes you've heard many times before.

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By Connie Ogle cogle@MiamiHerald.com

The Watch might seem like it’s a comedy about a bunch of bumbling neighborhood guys who discover a budding alien invasion, but really, it’s just an excuse for jokes about male genitalia and its operational weaknesses. Nothing inherently wrong with that — the crude humor doesn’t necessarily mean the movie isn’t funny in spots — but the body part joke to alien joke ratio seems slightly skewed in favor of the former, which makes the humor more than a little repetitive. How many different ways can one film say: “Men are idiots”?

Directed by Lonely Island’s Akiva Schaffer (Hot Rod) and cowritten by Seth Rogen, The Watch falls into the category of dumb comedies that you might happily watch late at night with six-pack in hand but would balk at paying to see in a theater. The popcorn is cheaper at home, after all, and The Watch is practically made for the pleasures of On Demand (alcohol consumption might improve it, too).

Ben Stiller stars as Evan, a Costco manager in suburban Ohio who decides to start a Neighborhood Watch program after the security guard at his store is brutally murdered by something that leaves a trail of green slime. Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill and Richard Ayoade play the schlubs who show up to Evan’s first meeting, but they’re more interested in socializing than chasing bad guys.

Thus the neighborhood watching doesn’t go so well at first, especially not for the audience, which has to endure an overlong gag in which Vaughn has to pee in a can on a stakeout. But soon the guys realize the killer they’re chasing is a hostile extraterrestrial — and he’s not alone.

The movie does have a few funny bits. Will Forte’s snotty cop and Billy Crudup’s creepy neighbor are amusing, and all of the main characters get a couple of solid comic moments. For the most part the filmmakers don’t linger too long on the tiresome threads, such as the obsession of Vaughn’s character over his teenage daughter’s sex life or Evan’s inability to impregnate his long-suffering wife, played by the great Rosemarie DeWitt (Your Sister’s Sister, Rachel Getting Married). DeWitt is game, but she deserves better material than this boys’ club nonsense. The Watch is far from the worst thing you’ll see this summer, but you probably deserve better material, too.

Cast: Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, Richard Ayoade, Rosemarie DeWitt, Will Forte.

Director: Akiva Schaffer.

Screenwriters: Jared Stern, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg.

Producers: Shawn Levy, Tom McNulty.

A 20th Century Fox release. Running time: 98 minutes. Strong sexual content, including references, pervasive language, violent images. Opens Friday July 27 at area theaters.

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