Mr. Movie

'The Watch' goes down as unwatchable

Ben Stiller is Evan, the manager of a Costco in a small town in Ohio. His overnight security guard is brutally murdered. Green slime is left behind.

Outraged and, of course, not thinking alien invasion, Evan organizes a neighborhood watch.

-- Local show times, theaters, trailer.

Evan is a serious dweeb and other than his job, he has no life and no friends. He is always organizing something to the dismay of his wanting-to-get-pregnant wife. Evan is on the city council, does the running club, a Spanish club, and this club and that. His neighborhood watch compadres think he's desperate for friends.

By the way, only three people show up for the first meeting of the neighborhood watch. They are Vince Vaughn's boorish Bob, Jonah Hill's potty-mouthed Franklin and a very strange looking and acting Jamarcus, who's done by British comedian Richard Ayoade.

Evan is serious about the neighborhood watch, but the other three really just want to party and bond. Evan finally gets them on patrols, and those patrols lead to aliens planning to conquer Earth.

Deciding to watch The Watch is coin-flip territory. Of course, the premise must be considered. It's the standard aliens invading the Earth comedy. They can be fun. Or not.

In this case, it's not. A lot not.

Heads or tails consideration begins in earnest with the acting principles: Stiller, Vaughn and Hill. Sometimes, they're very good. They can even be brilliant. But mostly, Stiller, Vaughn and Hill are really likable and talented actors who pick lousy projects.

And this is one of them.

Not all is negative with The Watch. The set-up is clever. Once you get there, the explanations of the set-up are even more clever. Having to plow through the unfunny bits to get to the fun is painful. The Watch definitely needs a rewrite or two. Or three.

The screenplay is done by hit-or-miss authors -- emphasis here on "miss" -- Jared Stern (Mr. Popper's Penguins) and Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (The Green Hornet, Pineapple Express).

Most of director Akiva Schaffer's experience is as a Saturday Night Live writer/director. Schaffer is never able to nail down a very loose, wandering script. But he's a TV writer and director for a series that emphasizes improvisation. Schaffer isn't bothered by the script's slim pickings. From time to time, he just lets the four actors take off and improvise. Like Saturday Night Live, most of the ad-libbing isn't that funny. Just a line or two of Hill's improv will make you laugh -- if you can catch them over Vaughn's shouting.

So what you have is a film with a skit mentality. The characters are placed in situations -- most of them unfunny -- and the dialogue consists of rambling to fill space. The premise is fun. Given to comedians with fabulous improv skills like Robin Williams or Billy Crystal and something could have been made of this. Aliens just don't begin an invasion of Earth at a Costco in a small town in Ohio.

Face it. Stiller, Vaughn, Hill and Ayoade just aren't that funny. Neither is their movie. I laughed four times in 102 minutes. That's not enough to recommend that you watch The Watch.

Mr. Movie rating: 1 star

Director: Akiva Schaffer

Writers: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Jared Stern

Stars: Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, Richard Ayoade, Will Forte, Rosemarie DeWitt, R. Lee Ermey, Andy Samberg

Rated R for brief nudity, language, drug use, sex, violence. It is playing at Regal's Columbia Center 8, the Fairchild Cinemas 12 and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.

5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen

4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.

3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.

2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.

0 stars: Speaks for itself.

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