Deborah Ross

No laughing matter | 25 August 2012

No laughing matter | 25 August 2012
DF-04723 From left – A neighborhood skater kid (Johnny Pemberton) easily gets the better of his hapless interrogators, Evan (Ben Stiller) and Franklin (Jonah Hill).|DF-04723 From left – A neighborhood skater kid (Johnny Pemberton) easily gets t
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The Watch

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It’s a brave soul who buys a cinema ticket at this time of year, when all the studios try to bury their rubbish, and it’s a brave soul who buys a ticket to The Watch. This is a comedy starring Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill and Richard Ayoade as four suburban men who take on an alien invasion in their neighbourhood. Actually, there are some good things about this film, which I will list here:

* It does end, eventually.

* ...nope, that’s it.

And the bad things:

* I did not laugh the once. I do not believe I even smiled, mildly.

* This wants to be (I think) Invasion of the Body Snatchers via Ghostbusters and Attack the Block but succeeds in being nothing but its own dreadful, pitiful, tedious self.

* There is something about Vince Vaughn’s face which may make you wish to smack it after the first frame and punch it full-on by the second.

* Events kick off when a Costco night-watchman is discovered murdered with his stomach removed and his skin peeled off; an event the police don’t seem particularly interested in. (Perhaps they are just too busy elsewhere, catching kids riding bikes on the pavement or something.)

* There is an absolute refusal to create any real characters, with all the actors coasting on established personas which were utterly stale on the last outing, the one before that, the one before that, and the one before that, right back to the Big Bang and very beginning of time. (As Stephen Hawking will confirm, Ben Stiller has been providing the same performance since before we, as a species, even left the sea and learned to walk on land.)

* I suppose one has to make an exception for Ayoade, the Brit who starred in The IT Crowd and directed Submarine, who is at least new to this sort of thing. What attracted him to this movie? The cheque, I’m guessing, but he is hopelessly stiff.

* There is also an absolute refusal to get any detail right. Stiller plays the manager of that Costco store yet his salary appears to allow him to live in a ten-bedroom mansion full of art, books and with a bespoke kitchen in the Shaker style with real oak worktops. (I’m sorry. I have such a shitty kitchen I can’t help noting other kitchens and wishing they were mine.) Huge America-style fridge, too. I bet it has an ice-maker.

* From the attention I paid, which wasn’t very much, there are all sorts of continuity errors, including our four leads being pelted with eggs and then appearing fresh as daisies a second later, or getting all bloodied, and then appearing fresh as daisies two seconds later. (If you can’t pay attention to your own film, why should we?)

* All the jokes are about willies and dicks and cocks and sperm and a typical line will combine at least some of them, as in: ‘You’re a cocksucking dickweed!’ Not offensive as such, just offensively unfunny. And repetitive. And trying.

* An orgy scene is included because someone noticed there was insufficient gratuitous nudity. I could fathom no other reason.

* The sci-fi elements look as if they have been put together on a budget of 40p and a Toffo.

* To introduce some kind of emotional heart, a subplot involves the Stiller character being sterile and not being able to make his wife pregnant; hilarious.

* Your average three-year-old is considerably brighter than any of these men and less fond of rude words for the sake of them.

The film’s attitude to Asian women who like to ‘lick balls’ may be borderline racist, if not racist, full-stop.

At the end — which, I promise, does come eventually, even though it sometimes feels as if it never will — it is discovered that the aliens have their brains in their dicks. Where were the brains of anyone involved in making this film? Out for the day? Beyond that, I have no idea at all.

So, it’s a brave soul who buys a cinema ticket at this time of year, like I said.