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Watch, The (AF)

7/10

Stars: Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, Richard Ayoade, Rosemarie DeWitt, Will Forte, Doug Jones, R. Lee Ermey, Nicholas Braun, Joseph A. Nuñez, Mel Rodriguez,

Director: Akiva Schaffer

Since the writing team of Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen (Superbad, Pineapple Express) are co-credited with Jared Stern with the screenplay of this broad, essentially audience-oriented coarse comedy of low humour, good taste and subtlety are hardly likely. And neither is evident in this tall tale of four oddball suburbanites who form a neighbourhood watch and end up battling aliens seeking to conquer the Earth and who have made their headquarters in the huge supermarket Stiller manages.

Stiller, effectively playing against type is atypically subdued and uptight when, after the night guard at his supermarket is brutally slaughtered and his skin stolen, decides to start up a suburban neighbourhood watch. The quartet that finally form the bold – not to say daffy – local law keepers comprises outgoing husband and father Vaughn (who, against type, is actually funny here), over-excitable Hill and recently divorced Ayoade…

After first coming up against the understandably unhelpful local police, Stiller and Company eventually tangle with the aliens, slugging one with a garden gnome and eventually turning their own weapons against them.

Their inability to figure out who among their fellow suburbanites might actually be an alien (the seemingly camp neighbour who appears to be making a play for Stiller and turns out to be running a lurid heterosexual orgy) has echoes of Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers but that’s about as far as subtext goes. The Watch (Fox wisely re-tiltled the film which was originally called Neighborhood Watch) is simply a low common denominator laugh-maker and, providing you set your sights suitably low, it succeeds.

The fact that the extraterrestrial brains are situated below the belt generates a tsunami of crass penis jokes in the worst possible taste– even more than, say, Channel Four’s ‘The Inbetweeners’ – while the director, TV ‘Saturday Night Live’ veteran Akiva Schaffer keeps the pace going briskly while ensuring that not an iota of good taste enters the proceedings which culminate in well-staged action.

Alan Frank

USA 2012. UK Distributor: 20th Century Fox. Colour by deluxe.
95 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 1, Swearing 3.

Review date: 21 Aug 2012