It’s no secret that “The Watch” is using an old Hollywood trick: Get a bunch of heavyweights together, and the box office numbers will follow. Really, just look at all that cheddar: Penned by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (“Superbad”); starring Ben Stiller (“Tropic Thunder”), Vince Vaughn (“Wedding Crashers”), Jonah Hill (“21 Jump Street”) and Richard Ayoade (“The IT Crowd”). Yet, despite those big names, audiences should spend their time elsewhere besides this mash-up of insipid raunch and inspired improv, comedy and sci-fi.

The Watch

At Quality 16 and Rave
20th Century Fox


Stiller is an over-zealous, over-involved member of a small town community who forms a neighborhood watch after his friend is murdered in the local Costco, of which he’s a manager. And as you probably know, the neighborhood watch ends up defending the world from alien invaders.

Stiller, Vaughn, Hill, Ayoade, Rogen, Goldberg — how did this movie go wrong? Though it’s faintly reminiscent of “Ghostbusters” and “Attack the Block,” there’s nothing particularly wrong with the premise. What those comedians’ earlier releases had was an abundance of knee-slapping lines, a moral (even sentimental) core and tremendous performances. For the most part, “The Watch” lacks all these traits.

This second directorial feature from Akiva Schaffer (“Hot Rod,” also a member of Lonely Island) does give its audience a handful of chuckles and, every once in a while, a hearty out-loud laugh. The most memorable: a seemingly improvised gag involving Vaughn and a Russian nesting doll, taking advantage of Vaughn’s rapid fire verbosity. Yet Schaffer barely ever exploits his actors’ strengths, instead relying on an overabundance of raunch, not wit. Consequently, “The Watch” quickly becomes obnoxious.

Besides the gross-out gags, the film’s other main focus is sci-fi. The alien invasion proves superfluous to the laughs. In fact, the film would’ve fared better as a story about a group of mismatched suburbanites in a neighborhood watch.

There’s some great ideas in this movie. Watching Stiller as the straight man attempting to be as multi-cultural as possible by befriending all the minorities in the neighborhood is great fun. He has no black friends — but he’s getting there, he says. He’s the one societal douche that hasn’t outworn his comedic fodder: the overcompensating white man. “The Watch” had promising racial undertones, but ultimately provides superficial revelations.

Being edgy is not the same as throwing out four-letter words. You gotta dig deeper. No such thoughtful laughter will be found here. Story short: If you want some real laughs, go see “Ted.” “The Watch” ‘s mediocre laughs could just as effectively be reproduced by trading locker room stories with your friends at home, for free.

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