Watch, The (UK - BD)
Chris takes a look at the recent sci-fi comedy movie starring Ben Stiller on BD
Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill and Richard Ayoade take male bonding to hilarious new heights in this outrageous, no-holds-barred comedy that gets funnier every time you watch! 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 neighbourhood - and the world - from annihilation. (Taken from the PR.)
I wish I could just copy and paste Gabe Powers' review here and save myself a lot of time, because he and I have very similar feelings towards The Watch. In the right hands the film could potentially have been an exciting genre mash-up in the vein of Shaun of the Dead or Attack the Block, but instead it's a lowest common denominator star vehicle with an over-reliance on toilet humour and the waning power of its principals. I'm convinced Ben Stiller has some sort of mass-mind control powers, because he's managed to convince people to watch his films by the millions (including me) despite not being particularly good in anything. Vince Vaughn seems forever destined (and content) to play the same loud-mouth joker in every film in which he appears, but his shtick started to wear thin some time ago and these days his presence serves are a warning. Jonah Hill is an actor who I've found enjoyable enough in some of his roles (the dramatic ones in particular) and Richard Ayoade is of course a talented writer-director and performer, but neither is called upon to do anything other than phone in their performances here.
The trailers made the film appear akin to something like the aforementioned Shaun of the Dead, but in reality it plays out more like a second tier buddy comedy with the alien invasion tacked on like some sort of b-plot. It's incredibly lazy, with a script that eschews almost every opportunity to develop the characters, or indeed make them even vaguely likeable, instead meandering from one tragically unfunny improv set-piece to the next. The Watch also has a serious case of schizophrenia, frequently shifting genre and tone as it tries to find its feet like some sort of comedy Bambi. As an example of its lack of direction, there's an insanely incongruous sub-plot about one of Stiller's creepy neighbours that only seems to be there to waste the talents of Billy Crudup and reference an early joke that wasn't even particularly funny to begin with. In fact the gags fall flat more often than not and the sheer amount of product placement puts even I, Robot to shame. The film's only real saving grace is its high production values, but even those are de rigueur for a picture of this vintage and as such are hardly something to crow about. A wasted opportunity all round.
Despite the packaging's claims to the contrary, The Watch arrives with a 2.35:1 1080/24p AVC encode that's about what you'd expect from a recent modern feature. The image is clean and consistently impressive, with plenty of fine detail in both wide and close-up shots, very little in the way of digital noise, and no egregious DNR or other digital 'enhancements'. Colours are stylised but faithful to the theatrical experience (I can just about remember seeing this one at the cinema) and contrast is handled nicely, without blooming or crushing. To tell you the truth it's a bit of a boring transfer to talk about, because there's really nothing to nit pick. It's not the very best the format has to offer, but the combination of the recent source and a competent encode make for a very pleasing visual experience.
As is usual for Fox's Blu-ray releases, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is the order of the day here. The track is your fairly typical comedy flick mix, which is to say it's front-heavy with occasional use of the surround channels for impact (particularly during the scenes with sci-fi elements). Of course the film is primarily a comedy (honestly), so the track isn't as dynamic or explosive as the best action movies. Even so there is plenty of directionality and fidelity is very good, while bass is quite potent when called upon. The score isn't particularly memorable, but it's well-placed in the mix along with the dialogue, which doesn't get lost in the mix like so many recent 'event' movies. This is a perfectly fine track that should please the film's fans.
- Deleted Scenes: An dozen deleted scenes are on offer, although many of them are actually extended scenes incorporating a lot of footage already found in the movie you just watched.
- Gag Reel: When your gag reel is funnier than your big-budget comedy, you have a problem.
- Jonah Hill Alternate Takes: Just a bunch of improv from Hill, some of which is funny, some of of which isn't.
- 'Watchmakers' Making of Featurette: This is your average contemporary making of featurette, which is to say it's not particularly insightful or revealing.
- Alien Invasions & You: The stars talk about how they'd react during an actual alien invasion.
- 'Casting the Alien' Featurette: A 'hilarious' interview with a the alien from the film, with the conceit that he's actually an actor playing a part, rather than a guy in a suit.
- Theatrical Trailer: Um, the film's theatrical trailer.
I'm not going to blather on about the film again in this section, as I believe I said all that was needed above. However, I will leave you with this: Richard Ayoade recently appeared on a British comedy programme where the presenter offered 'Richard you've had an incredible year as well. You went to Hollywood and starred in a film with Ben Stiller', to which Ayoade replied 'I didn't. I went to Atlanta and did one of the least well-regarded films of all time'. Look, audio-visually this is a perfectly good disc and there are even a few extras worth your time, but I heartedly recommend that you check the film out as a rental before splashing the cash.
* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Chris Gould
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 26th December 2012
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, Dolby Digital Audio Description 5.1 English
Subtitles: English HoH
Extras: Deleted Scenes, Gag Reel, Jonah Hill Alternate Takes, Watchmakers Making of Featurette, Alien Invasions & You, Casting the Alien Featurette
Easter Egg: No
Director: Akiva Schaffer
Cast: Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, Richard Ayoade, Rosemarie DeWitt, Will Forte, Erin Moriarty, R. Lee Ermey
Genre: Action, Comedy, Horror and Sci-Fi
Length: 97 minutes