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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 07.26.12] scifi comedy

***Mild Spoilers***

Though it didn't always start off that way, the later marketing for Akiva Schaffer's The Watch really pushed the alien invasion angle (likely for the same reason the studio changed the movie's title partway through its campaign) but the truth is that an alien invasion is nothing more than a cheap twist to an old story.

Ben Stiller stars as Evan, a community do-gooder who spends his time off of managing the local Costco (it's important to note that he works at Costco) avoiding his wife (from whom he's hiding a big secret) to spend time with strangers in the community. When the security guard at Costco turns up dead and skinned, Evan starts a neighbourhood watch to track down the killer. Sadly the meeting is woefully under attended but does bring out of the woodwork a handful of would be crime fighters: Bob (Vince Vaughn), the lonely family man in search of drinking buddies, Franklin (Jonah Hill), the high-school dropout with anger issues and Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade), a happily divorced transplant from the UK.

The newly formed Neighbourhood Watch quickly deviates from the original plan, they don't make it through the first meeting without breaking for beer, only to find themselves searching for aliens who can take on human form. In perhaps the movie's best scenes, Evan believes his new neighbour Paul (Billy Crudup in a creepy, stalker role - he has a smile that would do well in a thriller) could be an alien.

They eventually find the aliens camped up under Costco (the place where you can get everything) but not before a bunch of male bonding and one too many dick jokes. Writers Jared Stern, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg go out of their way to work every opening into some joke about sex and though some are hilarious, others fall completely flat and the further the story moves along, the less amusing the jokes become. The entire thing starts to get tedious after a while but just when you think you can't take another lame penis joke, that's when the aliens take centre stage and boy, these aliens are seriously cool.

Unlike other alien/comedy mixes, the aliens in The Watch are seriously ugly and mean looking things that could easily have been lifted from a good invasion flick. Bonus points for choosing to use man-in-suit (and Doug Jones of course) for the alien close encounter which quickly devolves into exactly what you'd expect from a bunch of drunk guys with a camera.

It's bubbling with bromance cliches, entire sequences that are more cringe than laugh worthy and it doesn't quite manage to sell the sentimentality it clearly strives for, though it does make a good case for teamwork, but when all is said and done, The Watch does eek out some great moments of hilarity (the slow-mo alien gunfight is particularly well edited to extricate the most laughs) and a few surprisingly gory scenes, enough to warrant a guys night out.

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