Suburbia. The wasteland of the American soul. The thin Astroturf covering the bottomless pit of consumerism and conformity. The trash compactor of the mind. The suburban jungle devours masculinity, leaving behind only enough manly vigor for the endless task of lawn care. Etc. etc.
In The Watch, opening today, four somewhat pathetic suburban dudes band together to man the fuck up. This is a process that involves a nearly infinite number of dick jokes. Oh, and there are some aliens to cope with, too. Spoilers ahead...
Not that you can really have spoilers for The Watch. It's pretty much all in the trailer. In a nutshell, Ben Stiller is playing Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn is playing Vince Vaughn. And they form a neighborhood watch, after there's a mysterious death in the Costco that Stiller manages. Joining them are Jonah Hill, playing kind of a psycho. And The IT Crowd's Richard Ayoade as Jamarcus, who's just sort of goofy.
Each of the four men has a personal crisis they're trying to work through. Stiller's character is kind of a prissy busybody, as a way of avoiding his wife's attempts to make a baby. Vaughn has a teenage daughter who's too slutty, won't listen to her dad, and has fallen in with a scuzzy boy who just wants to take advantage of her. Jonah Hill's character was turned down for the local police force because of his psychological problems, and needs to prove himself worthy. And Ayoade's Jamarcus just really wants to have an Asian woman suck on his balls.
Over the course of the film, it's not much of a spoiler to say that each of the four men confronts these challenges and conquers them, with the help of his friends in the neighborhood watch.
The Watch is a pretty by-the-numbers guy-bonding comedy. The script was written by Jared Stern (Mr. Popper's Penguins) as a slightly more family-friendly comedy that would have starred Will Ferrell. And then Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg were hired to add more dick jokes. And it was directed by Akiva Schaffer, who's done a lot of stuff for Saturday Night Live and also directed Andy Samberg's stuntman movie Hot Rod. It's not on the level of a Superbad or a Pineapple Express — but probably slightly better than Stiller's last film, Tower Heist.
At left: a scene where Vince Vaughn pees in a can, which should give you a lot of the flavor. It's sort of cute, especially Jonah Hill telling Vaughn to stop and start peeing — but the delivery goes past "deadpan" into "bored." And the film is basically a collection of gags that are on the level of "Vince Vaughn pees in a can," strung together.
And there's nothing wrong with that, really. Sometimes you just want to turn off your brain and watch Vince Vaughn peeing. It's like urinary comfort food.
And whenever you start to give up on this film, and think that it's really just coasting on the same four lazy jokes over and over again, something genuinely funny comes along — like the bit where the Neighborhood Watch car hits an alien crossing the street, and discover some of the alien's blood. Which, they decide, has the same texture and consistency as semen. This is actually a plot point, since the semen-like blood is the main way they find to identify the alien invaders.
So yeah — the aliens. They come to Earth to fuck shit up, and it turns out that they live among us secretly, waiting to launch the invasion. The movie gets a tiny amount of mileage out of trying to fake out the audience, as to which random secondary characters might really be aliens. A better movie might make the aliens more of a real antagonist in the film — the aliens are basically useless until the final moments. Or turned the aliens into some kind of metaphor for the personal challenges the characters are overcoming. Or something.
As it is, the aliens could be drug dealers, gangsters or terrorists, without changing the movie that much — the aliens are aliens, because that's the choice that's least likely to offend anybody in the audience.
The good news is, the fact that they're aliens means that we get a handful of reasonably funny gags built around them. Like when the guys get hold of an alien super-weapon thingy, and use it to make cows and tractors and cars and various other things explode. Which is probably just what would happen in real life. Or when they find an apparently dead alien, and they pose for photos with it, in increasingly silly or raunchy positions. Or when they discuss, at length, the notion that the aliens' blood is sort of like jizz.
Should you see this movie in the theater? It really depends on how strict your local cinema is about policing the consumption of alcohol, weed and 8-balls during a movie screening. You don't want to get wasted before watching this film, because you might start to sober up halfway through. All told, though, you're probably better off renting this one, and watching it after both Hangover movies.
In a year that's seen a fair number of dumb alien invasion movies, this is definitely the dumbest. Like, probably ever. But, you know, that's okay. Sometimes you're in the mood for a really dumb movie — and when that happens, The Watch will be there in your hour of moderate need.