There Goes The Neighborhood
RATED: ★ ★ ★ 1/2 out of 5 buckets | WORTH: Matinee or DVD
Rated: R Some strong sexual content, sexual references, pervasive language and violent images.
Release Date: July 27, 2012
Runtime: 1 hour 42 minutes
Director: Akiva Schaffer
Writers: Jared Stern, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg
SYNOPSIS: Four guys in a suburban neighborhood form a patrolling watch groups, but find themselves ill-prepared to face an intergalactic alien threat.
REVIEW: Saturday Night Live writer and director Akiva Schaffer, who directed Adam Samberg in Hot Rod, leaves the comfort of weekly last night television behind to take on the task of the Seth Rogen (The Green Hornet), Jared Stern (Mr. Popper's Penguins) and Evan Goldberg (Goon) written R-rated comedy involving bored suburban family men and and aliens - not from south of the border, but from south of the Milky Way.Evan (Ben Stiller, Tower Heist), a married man living the American dream in suburban Ohio, has worked hard his entire life and has risen to the position of manager of the local bulk warehouse Costco. When a co-worker turns up dead and missing his skin, Evan takes it upon himself to start yet another club to go along with his elderly Spanish courses and running group. Starting a neighborhood watch program, Evan is joined by fun-loving Bob (Vince Vaughn, The Dilemma), police force washout Franklin (Jonah Hill, 21 Jump Street), and tall accented Indian-type Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade, Bunny and the Bull). After getting their feet wet taking down mischievous kids, the quartet thinks its got the hang of patrolling. When the hunt for the Costco co-worker killer turns into the finding of strange energy sources and come face-to-face with an actual alien creature, they realize that they may be out of their depth, but continue on in order to keep their streets safe.
The Watch, formerly Neighborhood Watch, is a silly, foul-mouthed tale of discovery, both of the terrestrial and extraterrestrial varieties. From the trailers, you can put together the gist of the entire film, but what you do not see in the trailer are all of the hilarious moments that occur in between what was plastered on Youtube.com and television commercials. If an alien invasion isn't enough to whet thy appetite, a troubled marriage between Evan and his wife Abby (Rosemarie DeWitt, Your Sister's Sister) and dad Bob's tribulations of a daughter Chelsea (Erin Moriarty) coming of age adds a little bit more dimension to the story. With all that said, The Watch is still a semi-serious silly story with less akin to Will Smith's Independence Day and more like Old School.
What makes the film over all is the actors. Ben Stiller assembles a new team of misfits forThe Watch, making more promising choices than the results of the not as funny Tower Heist. I was disappointed in the missed opportunities with Eddie Murphy and Matthew Broderick. Vince Vaughn embodies the up-for-anything father who loves his kid as much as having an avenue to blow off a little extra steam with his brothers-in-arms - just like his role in Old School. Jonah Hill, still holding off most of the weight he lost for 21 Jump Street, throws his weight around as the police squad dropout with Jonah's Superbadconfidence and a butterfly knife. Ben Stiller continues his uptight, calculating ways as Even, channelling his work from any of the Focker films. Rounding out the neighborhood watch is Richard Ayoade as Jamarcus, a fresh as a penny lanky import character with the sense and sensibilities of work from shows like Flight of the Conchords. Every character is based on the strengths of the actor that portrays him. Like a well oiled machine, each brings his comedy A-game.
The members of the neighborhood watch break out of every scene. Vaughn goes over the top with his physical loud comedic presence. Hill commands with double-takes and wide-eyed stars. Ayoade quietly makes the audience laugh out loud. Stiller plays the straight man as well as he ever does. In addition, there are other characters to acknowledge. Evan's workplace, Costco, is a pivotal piece of architecture. The inept police department, led by Sgt. Bressman (Will Forte, Rock of Ages), makes you wonder how they stayed in a job at all. R. Lee Ermey's, (Toy Story 3) Manfred is fun to watch, if only for his well-practiced drill sergeant antics. Evan's neighbor Paul (Billy Crudup, Almost Famous) makes you want to believe in otherworldly life. And not to be forgotten, Doug Jones (Legion) is wholly responsible for bringing the biggest alien to life.
The practical and special effects are surprisingly slick and cool. I was impressed by the alien creature design and execution. Director Akiva Schaffer balances perfectly the straight situational comedy with the science fiction extraterrestrial action. Throw in a couple of personal dilemmas for half of the watch squad, and you have a solid effort.
The Watch is funny throughout, sometimes surprising with its wit and humor. Not for all moviegoers because of its raunchy and foul language and brief sexual content, for those who are fans of Old School and similar films, The Watch will delight and bring a tear to your eye... from laughing!
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