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Project 52: 'The Watch'

Posted Monday, February 25, 2013 at 5:02 PM Central
Last updated Monday, February 25, 2013 at 5:05 PM Central

by John Couture

The film got a new title after the Trayvon Martin tragedy

What happened to Vince Vaughn? He used to be so cool. He was the epitome of cool in Swingers and now, he's like some has been with a beer belly that your sister used to date in high school.

OK, maybe he's not quite that bad, but he's not far from it. Consider for a moment the career trajectory of his Swingin' bud Jon Favreau and it really puts it into perspective. Favs is a top-notch director shepherding some of the studios' biggest films to the megaplexes.

Meanwhile, Vince Vaughn is forced to play second fiddle to Ben Stiller or Kevin James or, god forbid, Adam Sandler. Thankfully, that last team up hasn't happened yet, but it's only a matter of time given the current landscape.

But alas, this isn't a story about the past. This is a review of the film The Watch which held such promise (at least in concept) and then completely fell on its face when it came to execution.

It's not the worst film I've ever seen, or even the worst I've seen as part of this project, but it certainly won't stand the test of time. Heck, it's already a fleeting thought that begs the question, have we gotten to a place where no film will truly make that journey from enjoyable viewing to lifelong obsession?

Perhaps that's a discussion for another day, but needless to say The Watch did not live up to those lofty expectations.

The Watch

Neighborhood Watch started to flounder before it even came close to coming out in theaters. On February 26, 2012, a Florida neighborhood watch captain shot and killed an unarmed teen and suddenly anything related to a neighborhood watch was taboo.

Of course, Fox was already hard at work marketing their film called Neighborhood Watch about a watch group that forms to stem off an alien invasion. Prior to the shooting, the alien storyline was vague and only hinted at, but after the shooting, they made it the centerpiece of their marketing strategy in an attempt to distance themselves from the real headlines coming out of Florida.

They also changed the title to the slightly less obtuse The Watch, which probably did fewer favors for them than anything. Of course, it didn't help that help that the early marketing materials also included street signs with bullet holes in them as seen below.

But, instead of delaying the release of the film, much like Warner Bros. did with Gangster Squad in the aftermath of the Aurora, Colorado shootings, Fox soldiered ahead toward its Summer release date. Sure, it was the biggest release of the weekend, but it got swallowed up in The Dark Knight Rises wake like so many other films last Summer.

Of course, it could also simply be a reflection of the quality of the film.

Initially, I was intrigued by The Watch because of its obvious parallels to The 'Burbs. Where the latter succeeded, the former failed big time. The beauty of The 'Burbs was the character study of Tom Hanks' character.

He was an everyday man, heck he could have been playing us. If we didn't identify with him directly, we knew (and liked) someone in our neighborhood who could have just as easily been Hanks' character.

The problem with Ben Stiller's Evan is that he's far from a likeable character. He's almost a complete 180 from Tom Hanks. Evan is that nosy, do-gooder that everyone secretly loathes.

As it turns out, the complicated character is really just dealing with overcompensation as a by product of his infertility. But see, this is a great example of a huge problem that I see in many films today.

They are so busy trying to be cute or set up the next unexpected twist to keep the audience guessing that they end up dropping the ball on something that should be so easy. Now, had they simply opened the movie on Ben Stiller at his doctor's office getting the bad news and then returning home to his very eager to have kids wife, then all of a sudden you build an instant level of compassion for Evan.

Instead, we are introduced to a likeable guy but perhaps one that enjoys his managerial position at Costco a bit too much. Immediately, we are unsure of whether we can trust Evan and it just sets up too many inconsistencies that come later in the film.

Don't get me wrong, the writer obviously wants Evan to be a control freak who has to come to grips with his world literally collapsing around him, but even an ounce of compassion could have made all of the difference in the world.

So, we turn our attention to Vince Vaughn's Bob and what initially seems like a typical guy in the midst of a mid-life crisis, we soon feel compassion for him and the fact that his daughter is getting to that age that all fathers dread. Because of this, we finally have a rooting interest in the film.

We also get a bit of a rooting interest in Jonah Hill's Franklin for his inability to land a job with the local police department. There is no connection whatsoever with Richard Ayoade's Jamarcus and it's painfully obvious, I thought, that he was an alien from the get go.

Also, the characters rely too heavily upon Jamarcus to further the plot. The other three have literally progressed the plot no further than when we started until Jamarcus reveals himself to be an alien and dumps a ton of exposition on the group and the audience that we would have otherwise never have gotten.

It's a cheap trick that is as old as Hollywood itself, but I felt at that point that the first two thirds of the film boiled down to a complete waste of time. The alien confrontation at the end was pretty decent, but the characters have to earn their victory and they don't even come close here.

I will single out one performance that I'm sure will be forgotten by just about everyone except for teenage boys and that's Rosemarie DeWitt. She's not given hardly any material to work with other than "baby-crazed wife" but the awkward back and forth between her and Franklin towards the end of the film provided for some of the better highlights of the film.

I should also say that Rob Livingston is one lucky man. She portrayed a level of hotness that transcended tawdriness. She was able to communicate hotness without simply getting naked and perhaps some younger actresses should take note.

Speaking of Rob Livingston, man I wish someone would cast him in something worthwhile again. He's brilliant and I would totally pay to watch him light up the big screen.

What I won't pay for is to see this film again. My time is too precious. I feel a little dirty for saying this, but it earns Two Pairs solely on the efforts of Rosemarie DeWitt.