Watch, The (US - BD)
Gabe hopes Richard Ayoade got paid a lot of money for this horrible movie...
There’s trouble brewing in peaceful Glenview, Ohio. That’s why four civic-minded citizens, armed with flashlights, walkie-talkies and spiffy new jackets, have teamed up to safeguard their community. But the guys find more than they bargained for when they uncover an alien plot to destroy Earth and now these bumbling heroes are Glenview's only chance to save the neighborhood – and the world – from annihilation! (From Fox’s official synopsis)
Director Akiva Schaffer is perhaps best known for his amusing Saturday Night Live digital shorts and music videos. You know, stuff like ‘Dick in a Box,’ ‘Jizz My Pants,’ and ‘I’m on a Boat’ that are good for a quick laugh when your aunt links it on her Facebook page. Middle of the road, vaguely offensive, but not so offensive that grandma can’t laugh along kind of comedy. His first film, Hot Rod, looks dumb, but I have been assured by a surprising number of friends and acquaintances that it’s quite funny. But, for now, I just have to take their word for it, because I don’t have the time to watch it in preparation of this review right now. Schaffer’s work here professional and succinct – The Watch looks expensive and when the script calls for a decent action or special effects sequence, he delivers something resembling professional. The spookier scenes, most of which are intended to be tongue-in-cheek, are also pretty attractive, pointing toward the possibility of a promising aesthetic eye. His problems revolve around his choices in material (spoiler: this movie sucks) and letting his cast steamroll him. I don’t believe for a second that he was actually in charge of this production; rather, I assume he was acting as an assistant to Ben Stiller. He doesn’t make editing choices that work for the movie, which becomes a series of overlong arguments, emotionally flat character moments, and an alien invasion story that is all but entirely lost in the mess. He spends basically the entire film desperately trying to shoehorn the promised concept of the suburban white guys versus alien into another ‘adult’ comedy nobody asked for.
The top-billed cast list reads like the who’s who of comedy personalities that have worn out their welcome. Starting at the bottom, we have Vince Vaughn, who has never been particularly funny and whose unfunniness has only grown steadily more obnoxious over the years. Then there’s Ben Stiller, one of Hollywood’s most depressing underachievers. We all know he’s talented, but he keeps doing his best to make us forget it. Jonah Hill hasn’t quite overstayed his 15 minutes and dramatic roles should keep him going for some time, but he really needs to stay away from sloppy cash-ins like this. The only person who comes off well here is the most talented and under-utilized member of the lead cast, Richard Ayoade. Ayoade is likely most famous for his work on The IT Crowd, but I’ve been a fan since he appeared on the insanely unique Garth Marenghi's Darkplace and The Might Boosh. However, Ayoade recently proved himself an invaluable filmmaking asset with his 2010 directorial debut, Submarine, the last good, ‘quirky’ coming of age film I’ve seen in maybe a decade. It’s easy to forgive him for this particular payday since he likely isn’t pulling in Vaughn, Stiller, or even Hill-level paycheques. He also manages to steal every inch of screentime he occupies throughout the film and even replaced Chris Tucker, whose special brand of screeching ‘comedy’ would’ve probably been the cast’s death throe. Not that Ayoade’s charms are enough to make The Watch less than crappy.
The screenplay was written by Jared Stern of Mr. Popper’s Penguins ‘fame,’ and the Judd Apatow-birthed team of Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg. The reasonably family-friendly concepts of what I’m assuming is Stern’s script sits at odds with Rogen & Goldberg’s more vulgar and improvisational humour, but this is simply another symptom of the greater creative team’s odd skill sets. The not too offensive, generally childish vulgarity neatly fills Schaffer’s and producer Shawn Levy’s filmmaking strengths while giving the improv-happy cast a place in the creative process. It is the improv that flops with the most regularity. So much of the film’s comedy depends so heavily on the audience appreciating the characters these actors have crafted over their careers that every joke and plot point seems preordained. Stiller has fallen awkward and angry out of a Fockers movie, Vaughn shouts maddeningly unfunny one-liners, and Hill sings songs and supports the rest of the cast in their lame nonsequiters. Calling the plot predictable is a bit of a misnomer, because it implies that any effort has been put into storytelling when the name of the game here is ‘moving actors from improv situation to improv situation.’ But, if you do gather the basic plot-based moments together, you’ll find that every single element has been borrowed from another movie. The effect is absolutely exhausting in its uneven tone, uneven pace, and lack of focus. I imagine even those that laughed at these uniformly unfunny jokes must’ve found The Watch a bit prolonged.
The Watch was shot using Arri Alex digital HD cameras and this 1080p, 2.35:1 Blu-ray transfer does a fine job recreating the format’s 35mm-like appearance. Schaffer and cinematographer Barry Peterson aim to recreate the same warm, candied, and perpetually overcast look so many modern, digitally-shot comedies use. This leads to some pretty orange skin tones, a lack of full-bodied whites (they’re usually either yellow or bluish), and some warm blacks, but also gives a vibrant boost to the poppier pieces of palette and doesn’t damage the overall detail levels. It’s an uncanny look, but it sort of fits the suburbia meets alien invaders subject matter. Greens and reds are particularly impressive. Schaffer and Peterson tend to fill their widescreen frame out with people and avoid a lot of major close-ups, so there’s not a whole lot of ultra sharp texture, but background patterns are complex without any compression artefacts. Fine lines and highlights are not lost during the super dark shots, though the low contrast look does make for occasionally muddy night scenes and minor bleeding in those warmer blacks. Compression issues are limited to some minor banding effects across some of the background blends and even more minor chromatic aberration along some of the harsher edges.
This DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is plenty loud and plenty crisp. Stiller’s early narration sounds a bit thin, but things quickly spread out and clean up nicely. Dialogue is natural, centered, and never muddled as characters speak over each other. Ambient noise is limited to pretty basic stuff, like customer walla at Costco, partying teenagers, moving traffic, and chirping crickets (because nothing says ‘night time’ like crickets). Sequences featuring sneaky alien critters slip-sliding around Costco and subsequent action-packed attacks match the soundscapes of a genuine monster movie, complete with all the directional movement and LFE bounce we’ve come to expect from such things. The alien technology, gunshots, and monster noises also match the complex, high-volume bombast of serious-minded, big-budget invasion flicks. There’s even a massive, climatic explosion. Christophe Beck has a very specific job as composer – he has to recreate and subvert the musical tropes of the movies The Watch mimics. He does this job well, plundering punchy action cues, which burst nicely with a nice stereo spread, and the requisite ‘quirky’ cues, which settle warmly under the effects and dialogue without impeding anything. The ‘ironic’ use of vulgarity-heavy gangster rap is amusing enough and these selects are all given a dynamic bass boost.
The extras begin with 12 deleted/extended scenes (24:40, HD). Like most improv-heavy movies there are probably days worth of repetitive junk that was deemed unneeded, which is really saying something for a movie as needlessly overlong and repetitive as this one. The person who suffered most from these particular cuts is Rosemarie DeWitt, who is basically a non-character in the finished film. These are followed by a gag reel (3:40, HD) and alternate takes of Jonah Hill’s lines (5:40, HD), which are also side effects of too much improv. Watchmakers (12:20, HD) briefly covers the behind the scenes process with Levy, Shaffer, Stiller, Vaughn, Hill, Ayoade, DeWitt, Will Forte, Doug Jones (who plays one of the suit aliens), and stunt man Dorian Kingi. This featurette verifies that the production depended almost exclusively on the cast to craft the film, rather than a script or director. The extras are wrapped up with an Alien Invasion & You (1:50, HD) interview segment, Casting the Alien (5:20, HD) with Jones in costume, a trailer, and trailers for other Fox releases.
There’s no real proof that any of the screenwriters were inspired by or even saw Joe Cornish’s brilliant hoodies vs. aliens comedy Attack the Block (I assume Schaffer was aiming for Ghostbusters or Men in Black and ended up hitting something closer to Evolution or Men in Black 2), but the similarities are hard to ignore, at least in a comparative capacity. However, The Watch is such a massive failure of a film, not to mention one that seems to resent its sci-fi social commentary aspects, the comparison is mostly unnecessary. If you were one of the select few that enjoyed this debacle, you should find yourself satisfied by this Blu-ray’s image and audio quality, though probably a little disappointed by the lack of substantial extra material.
* Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray image quality.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 13th November 2012
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish, French, Portuguese, Russian, Czech, Hungarian, Polish, Ukrainian
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Bulgarian, Cantonese, Croatian, Czech, Estonian, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Malay, Mandarin (Traditional), Polish, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovenian, Turkish, Ukrainian, Vietnamese
Extras: Deleted/Extended Scenes, Gag Reel, Watchmakers, Alien Invasion & You, Casting the Alien, Trailers, DVD Copy, Digital Copy
Easter Egg: No
Director: Akiva Schaffer
Cast: Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, Richard Ayoade, Rosemarie DeWitt
Genre: Action, Comedy and Sci-Fi
Length: 102 minutes
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