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Suburban dads form a neighborhood watch group to get time away from their families, only to discover a plot to destroy Earth.
For more about The Watch and the The Watch Blu-ray release, see the The Watch Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on November 13, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Starring: Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, Richard Ayoade, Rosemarie DeWitt, Will Forte
Director: Akiva Schaffer
» See full cast & crew
The Watch Blu-ray Review
There goes the neighborhood.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, November 13, 2012
I've always thought a Costco would make a decent place to ride out the zombie apocalypse. You've got a near-endless supply of pallets loaded with bulk food, enough toilet paper to TP Trump Tower, and sliding metal gates to keep out the undead hordes. What I never imagined is that a Costco in suburban Ohio would be ground zero for an alien invasion of Earth. That's the unlikely premise of The Watch, a mostly unfunny sci-fi comedy written by Pineapple Express duo Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, directed by "SNL Digital Shorts" mastermind Akiva Schaffer, and produced by Shawn Levy, the wildly—some might say obnoxiously—enthusiastic filmmaker behind such bland box office successes as Just Married, Cheaper by the Dozen, and Real Steel.
This combination of individuals should tell you most everything you need to know about The Watch, which suffers from a split personality disorder, awkwardly pulled between the crass comedy of Rogen, Goldberg, and Akiva—the guy who gave the world his "Dick in a Box"—and Schaffer's cheery, family friendly aesthetic. As The Watch went through years of development hell, starting in 2008, Rogen and Goldberg extensively rewrote an initial script by Jared Stern, turning the project into a decidedly R-rated affair, but it's no surprise to learn that Schaffer originally envisioned the film as a "PG-13 kind of Ghostbusters-y thing."
The film begins with narrator Ben Stiller proudly proclaiming "Glenville, Ohio, U.S.A., Earth" to be the best place in the universe. Stiller plays Evan Trautwig, a Costco manager with total indifference to the world outside his tiny town. But you can't say he's not civically-minded, at least. He's a city council member, runs the local Spanish language club, and leads a jogging group—all of which take his attention away from his wife, Abby (Rosemarie DeWitt), who wants to have a baby but can't seem to get Evan in the sack. She's about to have even more alone-time. When the night security guard at Costco is savagely murdered—and skinned, by some stealthy, skittering creature—Evan decides to start a neighborhood watch to solve the crime and keep Glenville safe.
Incidentally, the film was supposed to be called Neighborhood Watch, but the Treyvon Martin killing—which occurred five months before the movie's release date—forced the Fox marketing department to scramble to rebrand a suddenly hot-button title. It also probably didn't help the film's box office prospects that it debuted in theaters a week after the Dark Knight Rises mass shooting in Colorado. Not that this circumstantial bad luck ultimately matters much. The Watch's low-brow science fiction setup doesn't exactly scream blockbuster, and even at its best, the movie isn't nearly as hilarious as it desperately wants to be.
The script is a combination of disparate elements—penis jokes, bro-mance, sci-fi splatter action—that simply don't blend well. And although the casting of Evan's rag-tag band of community protectors seems perfect at first, the parts quickly feel rote and uninspired. Jonah Hill as Franklin, a lives-with-his- mom wannabe cop with social and emotional issues? Vince Vaughn as Bob, a hard-partying doofus of a single dad? The IT Crowd's Richard Ayoade—in his first major U.S. role—as a nebbish English gentleman? Ben Stiller as a husband stymied by his own neuroses and perceived sexual inadequacy? The thing is, we've seen each of these actors play the same essential role—and play them much better—in other projects.
That's not to say there isn't any fun to be found in The Watch. Jonah Hill may be doing the same arrested development shtick he's done previously in The Sitter, Cyrus, and 21 Jump Street, but his improvisation here—twirling a butterfly knife, making obscene suggestions—is lovable in a weird, unsettling way. Best of all is Richard Ayoade, a capable writer/director in his own right, who offsets some of the crude American-style comedy with drier, more precise wit. The film could use more of it, especially when it veers from being a sort of buddy movie—four dudes drinking in a man cave, going on ridiculous nighttime adventures, etc.—into all-out alien shoot-em-up mode.
The story tiredly borrows from Invasion of the Body Snatchers, with nefarious otherworldly visitors hiding in plain sight among us, but the plot's really only here to get us from one gag to the next. An extra-terrestrial orb that fires a laser-beam when all four guys collectively "finger-bang" it. Planet-destroying space jockeys who can only die from "severe trauma to the dick." An orgy in a suburban basement, complete with the dudes from Akira Schaffer's novelty song trio—The Lonely Island—in a literal circle jerk. You get the picture. There are a few rare moments of LOL-worthy comedy, but most of The Watch is as dull as an all-night stakeout in a Costco parking lot.
The Watch Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Watch's $68 million budget seems awfully high for a fairly low-key sci-fi/comedy that doesn't need many special effects until the last act, but hey, at least it looks good on Blu-ray, with a 1080p/AVC encode that's consistently sharp and clean. Shot digitally using Arri Alexa cameras, the movie actually has a very filmic look, with an exceptionally fine layer of sensor noise that mimics the shape and movement of 35mm grain and only spikes during the darkest scenes. As usual for most contemporary Fox releases, there are no signs of DNR or edge enhancement here, and the dual-layer 50 GB disc has plenty of room for an encode free from compression issues. The level of clarity is high throughout, to the extent that you can make out individual hairs and extremely fine facial features in closeups. While much of the film takes place at night, outside, contrast is balanced—no harshly crushed shadows or blown-out highlights—and the color grading delivers good density and richness. Overall, this is a very strong high definition presentation that seems entirely true-to-intent.
The Watch Blu-ray, Audio Quality
20th Century Fox has equipped The Watch with the standard-issue lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track. This comedy-oriented mix might not have the immersive, high intensity sound design of a dedicated sci-fi film, but it does well with the few action sequences the script throws its way. Electricity buzzes and arcs in the rear channels. Gunshots pop through the soundfield. An alien laser crosses between speakers. Extraterrestrials skitter and squish from all directions. Explosions boom with subwoofer afterburners. Quieter scenes features a modicum of environmental ambience— football stadium clamor, neighborhood noise—and everything sounds clean and balanced and grounded. Composer Christophe Beck's score is the usual action/comedy stuff, but it sounds good too, tonally/dynamically anyway. Dialogue is always clear and easy to understand, but for those that might need or want them, the disc comes with a number of subtitle and dubbing options; see above for details.
The Watch Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Watch Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Watch is one of those unfortunate comedies where—by some combination of bad writing and poor timing—the jokes just don't land as well or as often as they should. The film's obvious PG-13 origins are also at-odds with its wannabe hard-R attitude, making for a tonal mish-mash that doesn't blend well. And while Jonah Hill and Richard Ayoade have a few moments of comic brilliance each, you can't help feeling that you've seen them play these same characters in better films or—in Ayoade's case—TV series. 20th Century Fox's Blu-ray features decent tech specs and a few fun special features, but I'd only recommend a rental on this one.
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The Watch Blu-ray, News and Updates
• The Watch Blu-ray - September 11, 2012
20th Century Fox Entertainment has officially announced that it will release a combo pack edition of director Akiva Schaffer's comedy The Watch (2012), starring Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill and Richard Ayoade. Street date is November 13th.
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