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Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012 08:57 am

Unwatchable Watch a dog of cosmic proportions

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There are some things that you think you’re absolutely sure of only to have that certainty cast in doubt. For example, I was certain that the Adam Sandler comedy That’s My Boy was hands down going to be the worst film of 2012. After seeing The Watch, I’m not so sure. This is the sort of film in which the good judgment of everyone involved obviously went on hiatus. It is incredible to me, not only that this film was green lit by the brain trust at 20th Century-Fox, but that at no time during its making did anyone realize what a load of crap they were making and try to fix it.

Flat-out stupid, the film has so many things wrong with it that it would take far more words than I have at my disposal to accurately describe the sort of time-suck this movie is. Let’s start with the premise – due to a heinous murder in the town of Glenview, Ohio, four concerned citizens come together to form a neighborhood watch to help guard the populace and hopefully catch the killer. The quartet consists of Costco manager and major control freak Evan (Ben Stiller), permanent party boy Bob (Vince Vaughn), militant loner Franklin (Jonah Hill) and the recently divorced Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade).

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this premise. The sight of four well-meaning jokers doing respective Barney Fife imitations could generate a few laughs. Ah, but the screenplay by Jared Stern, Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg isn’t satisfied with this, they need to add a twist to make this epic truly distinctive. So they do what any resourceful author does – they throw in some aliens. (I’m not sure but I think this is a tactic that Charles Dickens resorted to a time or two, so it’s a solid narrative strategy.) Yep, our misguided protectors stumble upon a malevolent ET who is going to lead a full-scale invasion.

Director Akiva Schaffer is out of his depth here, unable to strike a consistent tone throughout and clueless as to how to mix the genres in this kettle of fish. The violence and gore on display is the sort we associate with an Alien film. The monster itself is not that far removed from that franchise baddie, meaning he’s far too malevolent to exist in the same film as the numerous simplistic jokes that fail at every turn to generate a single guffaw. Drunken singalongs, comparing the alien’s blood to semen and simulating sex with the ET’s supposedly dead body is what passes for humor. And don’t even get me started on the gag in which a hapless police officer tries to stuff the heart of his deputy back into his chest after a nasty encounter with the monster they’re stalking. It’s not impossible to make a movie combining humor and horrific characters. Abbott and Costello met Frankenstein and they pulled it off, while Ghostbusters had it moments as well.

Words like “dreadful,” “appalling,” and “disastrous,” all seem so inadequate in describing this film. With its undeveloped subplots, embarrassing performances and incompetent direction, The Watch is an affront to good taste and an insult to consumers. The makers of this obviously feel as though filmgoers are just dumb enough to accept this as a passable comedy. However, there is a silver lining. Were NASA to jettison copies of this film into the cosmos to be discovered by alien races, it could serve as the ultimate deterrent for invasion. After watching this, I can’t imagine any extraterrestrial race worth its salt that would bother to conquer a planet where such a piece of dreck could be produced.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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