Melinda Sue Gordon, Associated Press
"THE WATCH" — ★ — Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, Rosemarie DeWitt, Richard Ayoade; R; (strong sexual content including references, pervasive language and violent images); in general release
I think I've figured out the "modern" Hollywood formula for what used to be called a screwball comedy.
You no longer simply go for the lighthearted, slapstick, goofy, but genuinely funny laughs that actually require good writing and great timing. Now Tinsel Town takes the quick and dirty route where the laughs rely on everything sexual, gross and lewd, all while lacing every scene — if not every line — with obscenities.
What we have today are not screwball comedies; we have slimeball comedies, as evidenced most recently by "Ted" and now "The Watch."
"The Watch" features Ben Stiller as Evan, a Costco manager who forms a neighborhood watch in the aftermath of the brutal murder of a store associate. Only three other guys show up, and each has his own reasons, and securing the neighborhood from bad guys seems not to be at the top of their lists.
Vince Vaughn is Bob and he's here for the beer — literally. Finding the serious meeting that Evan is conducting too boring, he instigates the move to his man cave, where things loosen up considerably.
Jonah Hill is high school dropout Franklin, rejected by the local police force and living with his mom. Sexually frustrated, this guy has issues.
And then there's Richard Ayoade as Jamarcus, who seems to just be observing and is fantasizing that the watch may lead him to a sexual encounter with a beautiful Asian housewife. This is good stuff, the makings of a classic.
Oh, and I haven't mentioned the aliens — or the infertility that Ben Stiller's character and his wife are dealing with. And I haven't even gotten into the daddy-daughter dilemmas faced by Vaughn and his on-screen teen, Chelsea, played by Erin Moriarty.
And yes, the brilliance continues. There are the local cops who bungle everything and R. Lee Ermey as the old neighborhood curmudgeon, who, in his few brief scenes, spews profanity at a world-class level.
Yes, "The Watch" is — breathtaking.
It's breathtaking in its ability to hit the lowest, basest levels of comedy with stunning consistency. It's breathtaking in assuming the star power in the film will overcome the lack of a clever, well-written script. And it's breathtaking in its brazen assumption that you and I will pay $8.50 to endure this mess.
Often people will say, "Wow, what a cool part of your job that you get to see so many movies." Generally, they're right. But with "Magic Mike," "Ted" and now "The Watch" in just the past few weeks, I feel under siege.
This is Le Bad cinema, a total turkey — but my friends at the Deseret News require a star rating, so here's one star because the film was in focus.
"The Watch" is rated R for some strong sexual content including references, pervasive language and violent images; running time: 102 minutes.
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