THE WATCH. Starring Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, and Richard Ayoade. Directed by Akiva Schaffer. Rated MA15+ (Strong coarse language, sexual references, sex scene and comedic violence). 102 min.
This American science-fiction comedy is about a group of men, who form a Neighbourhood Watch group. While on “duty”, they discover that aliens have invaded Earth, and are killing people in their town.
In Glenview, Ohio, USA, Evan Trautwif, who owns the local wholesale store, finds out that the night security guard at his store has been murdered. No one knows why or how it happened. Evan sets up a Watch group to try and find the killer, and three men volunteer. He recruits Bob (Vince Vaughn), a construction manager, Franklin (Jonah Hill), a rejected recruit for the Police force, and Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade), a recent divorcee. The four men have different reasons for joining his team, and as members of the Watch group they suddenly find themselves not only saving Glenview, but also Earth, from an alien invasion.
While on their watch, they hit something on the road, that turns out to be a highly destructive weapon device that they haven’t seen anywhere before. Several people in the town are killed mysteriously, and the group finds itself confronted by aliens, who attack them. The aliens’ methods are unusual. They steal their victims’ skins and disguise themselves as humans, which raises the likelihood that anybody in the town could be an alien in disguise. Everyone begins to distrust everyone else.
Jamarcus confesses that he is an alien, but he has decided to come across to the other side after experiencing aspects of the human culture that he likes. The group goes in search of a transmitter that needs to be destroyed so that humanity can survive. Jamarcus confides in them the secret that the energy source for the aliens rests in the lower region of their bodies.
This movie as a whole is fixated on the phallic region. The power force for the aliens rests in their penises, Evan worries about his sexual inadequacy, and Jamarcus comes across to the side of Humanity because he likes to experience oral sex. As a result, most of the humour serves the prurient interest. Only some parts of the movie, that avoid the banality of crudely depicted sexual activity, create laughable situations.
Ben Stiller leads the comedy team with his usual play of normality in shock at the tragedy of life, and there are a lot of organ puns. The story-line is silly. It parallels a whole host of alien-invasion comedy plots, and tries to distract the viewer with toilet humour along the way.
This is a comedy that aims low in the comic stakes, and is fueled mostly by testosterone on the march. The team of comedy players works smoothly together, and the situations that work best in comic appeal are those which show members of The Watch fumbling together, trying to cope with situations they have no idea how to handle. But the movie overall wallows in crassness, and it achieves special heights of crudity, particularly when it comes back time and time again to sundry activities below the male belt-line.
The film is best suited for those who seek coarseness and vulgarity, and a ridiculous plot to lighten the load. It only provides momentary escape from ordinariness, and misuses a good acting ensemble in the effort to raise cheap laughs.
Peter W. Sheehan is associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.
Twentieth Century Fox Films.
Out 13th. September, 2012.