The Watch (Twentieth Century Fox, R)

thewatch 75I really like the aliens in The Watch. They look creepy, and slimy, and legitimately intimidating.

 

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Comedies are tough for me. Most people look at comedies in a very black and white kind of way: Either it makes them laugh or it doesn’t. I laugh a lot, just generally. The thing is, most movies have some humor to them, no matter how dark the rest of the film is, so I like my comedies to do more than simply amuse me. Maybe that’s unfair, but it’s just the way it is. I’m not asking much. If a comedy simply has characters that I love, I will embrace that comedy. If the jokes are especially smart, it can win me over, even though I will laugh at more base, stupid humor. Or, as in the case of The Watch, it can insert aliens. We know there are aliens in The Watch from the first moments, when a Costco security guard is murdered by one. The manager of that Costco, played by Ben Stiller, forms a neighborhood watch to catch the perpetrator. The three guys he recruits seem less interested in solving crimes than just hanging out, but eventually, they discover that their small town is being invaded by aliens.

The cast is always important in movies like this. Ben Stiller is fine as the leader, here serving as the straight man. His role is necessary, but a little bland compared to other colorful characters. Vince Vaughn is like the human equivalent of a Zucker Abrahams and Zucker movie. He constantly throws jokes at you, to the point where you sometimes wish he would shut up, but when the jokes hit, they really hit. In this movie he’s closer to Airplane! than, say, Scary Movie 3. Jonah Hill is an actor I really hated for a long time and have warmed to over the years. Recently, with Moneyball and 21 Jump Street, he’s totally won me over. Here, he plays a potentially violent youth who sees the neighborhood watch as a vigilante squad. He’s playing on the same type of ideas that Seth Rogen played with in Observe and Report. I was a bit uncomfortable with this character in the wake of recent events, but that is an unfortunate circumstantial issue, not one the film can be blamed for. The wild card of the bunch is Richard Ayoade, who is known from The IT Crowd. This seems like a role specifically designed to catapult him into major stardom, and it very well may. He stands out in a crowd of famous comic actors.

Aliens have been invading our movie screens a lot recently, and frankly, I am sick of it. I hate Transformers. I hate the aliens in Battleship. I hate the aliens in Cowboys and Aliens. I hate the aliens in god movies like Super 8 and The Avengers. What have we done to deserve such a plague of awful aliens, and why is this comedy able to succeed where huge budget sci-fi epics fail? I really like the aliens in The Watch. They look creepy, and slimy, and legitimately intimidating. You can also see that there is a lot of suit work going on, in place of CGI. The main alien is played by Doug Jones, frequent Guillermo del Toro collaborator, and possibly the best rubber suit actor working. I like that the aliens are a threat, and there are some genuinely suspenseful scenes amongst all the shenanigans.

The Watch isn’t a particularly original movie. It suffers from comparison to Attack the Block, the great British film from last year, and I was reminded of films from the ’80s such as Ghostbusters and The ’Burbs. But it’s very well made, and the group dynamic works. It works as a comedy. It works as an alien movie. And I laughed…a lot. | Sean Lass

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