Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Watch (2012)

Title: The Watch (2012)

Director: Akiva Schaffer

Cast: Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, Richard Ayoade, Rosemarie DeWitt


Certain things can destroy a films chances at the box office, one of them is a negative social event that can be linked to the films plot or premise. For example, the 1999 Columbine High School Massacre in Columbine Ohio affected -actually completely destroyed- any chances that horror comedy Idle Hands (1999) had at making any money. Why? Because it was a horror film about high school teenagers! Simply because of that. After the Columbine tragedy, suddenly anything that had to do with violence and teenagers was dead at the box office. The same fate befell another film that was released that same year called Teaching Mrs. Tingle (1999) which had a group of teenagers threaten their evil history teacher (played by none other then Helen Mirren!) with a crossbow. The students end up knocking the teacher out and tying her to a bed in order to convince the teacher that they need to pass her class. Of course, the nation had Columbine on their heads so the movie died at the box office. The film was originally called Killing Mrs. Tingle, but the studio, predicting death at the box office changed the title to Teaching Mrs. Tingle.

An even more recent example is The Dark Knight Rises whose box office was inevitably affected by the mass murders at a movie theater in Aurora Colorado during a showing of the film. The Dark Knight Rises still made a lot of cash and set world records, but I know the film would have made even more then that if media coverage of the tragedy had not scared moviegoers from going to watch the film. Well, here comes The Watch a film whose fate proved to be similar to these films I’ve just mentioned. Why? Because it was linked to the shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman in Sanford Florida. You hadn’t heard of this story? Well, it goes like this: George Zimmerman a Hispanic man who was part of a neighborhood watch in Florida, sees 16 year old Trayvorn Martin walking the streets of the neighborhood. Zimmerman for some reason mistakes Trayvon  for a hoodlum, chases him down, and ends up shooting him in the chest. Turns out Trayvorn Martin was no criminal and Zimmerman was just a trigger happy nutcase, a racist wannabe judge who racially profiled Trayvorn and shot him without any real reasons. And so, since this real life nutcase was part of a neighborhood watch, a nervous studio changed the films original title from ‘Neighborhood Watch’ to just ‘The Watch’, which is a misleading title, it made me think the film was about some sort of magical watch or something?  

So social events can hinder a films box office intake. Still, a good question to ask would be: was The Watch a good movie to begin with? Truth be told, The Watch is no big deal. It’s the kind of film that you’re better of just renting; it’s nothing memorable or groundbreaking or awe inspiring. What it does have is a good cast of comedians that elevate a very mediocre, half assed script that feels so ‘been there done that’ that it renders the film utterly forgettable. The script was paper thin, it made no effort to bring anything new to the table. Bringing something new to the table is of course something that gotten increasingly more difficult because so many films have been made. Inevitably most films will walk on tired ground. Keeping this in mind, The Watch feels a heck of a lot like Ivan Reitman’s Ghostbusters (1984). Four comedians come together to fight a seemingly unstoppable force, and they have no real clue as to how to do it, but they do it anyways. This isn’t the first film to try and duplicate Ghostbusters success; in 2001 Ivan Reitman tried to duplicate his own Ghostbusters formula and directed Evolution (2001), a film about four comedians playing the roles of scientists trying to stop the return of the dinosaurs to modern times. Reitman tried mixing Jurassic Park with Ghostbusters, the results where…okay.

"Somebody get me The Ghostbusters..."

I guess nobody can really recreate the magic of The Ghostbusters…ever! That’s such a perfect film, many things make Ghostbusters a great film. The cast for example was pitch perfect. Bill Murray doesn’t play a smart ass prick who's full of himself, he was just being himself. Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis are a pair of real life geeks…and Ernie Hudson is the new guy who comes out of left field, I think the trick with Ghostbusters was that everyone was perfectly cast because they were basically playing themselves. Ghostbusters wannabes don’t understand that, plus, there was the magic of making the film in New York City! The people of New York and the city itself add a magic to the proceedings that’s hard to find anywhere else. These things matter people! In comparison, The Watch was filmed in Georgia and takes place mostly inside of a Costco; enough said. The cast is a decent one though, and its the only thing that keeps the film from sinking. I imagine this film with a lesser cast would have sucked even harder. Stiller plays the ‘quintessential nice guy’ for the umpteenth time, Vince Vaughn plays the eternal college frat boy (yet again), Jonah Hill plays a wannabe cop who’s a little nutty, and finally, Richard Ayoade is the weird one. They way they play with the dialog and their improve jokes are what keep things interesting. But  damn, what was up with the product placement in this movie? Costco is splattered all over this one, so is Coca-Cola and Tide and Trojan Condoms…it gets to be product placement overload; I know it’s just the nature of the beast and all, but it makes you feel like people only do these things because they get paid? And that’s just really sad…I can’t talk about it anymore! It’s giving me a headache…let me take a Nuprin! Little. Yellow. Different.

So anyways, the whole alien invasion scenario doesn’t even matter on this film, which is one of the biggest mistakes these filmmakers made. That’s what was cool about Ghostbusters, they had ‘Gozer the Gozerian’ and Zuul’s and Shandor’s and Gate Keepers and giant marshmallow men! Gozer opened up portals to other dimensions, bringing forth formidable villains! Here we have aliens sans-personality, again here is where the script shows it needed more work. As it is, the film feels like a lazy cash in, like a film that takes the audience intelligence for granted and thinks we’re going to accept this half assed attempt at a movie as a true film worth our time. The Watch isn’t a complete waste of time, but it’s a lame attempt at a film. It’s got cool looking monsters and funny improves, but lame ass villains and a weak as hell script. My advice to the guys behind this film is try harder next time, this was just lame-o my friends! A wasted opportunity that has a moment or two, but could’ve been so much better had they put more effort into it.   

Rating: 3 out of 5

Original promotional material bearing the films original title

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