daniel cohen reviews the sci-fi comedy…
Plot: When his friend (Joe Nunez) is killed by a mysterious force, town go-getter Evan (Ben Stiller) starts a neighborhood watch program with three other misfits. The four get more then they bargained for though when they realize that an other worldly force has invaded Earth.
If you’re looking for a C-level Ghostbusters, then this is your movie! I actually don’t mean for that to sound insulting, because I did have a good time with this film. It doesn’t do anything special, Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn are giving their usual run of the mill performances, and it’s never hysterical. But what I did get were consistent chuckles, and I appreciated the minimal shock jokes. This really is in the vein of Ghostbusters, and while it’s no where near as clever as that film, the actors are clearly having a good time with it.
The one thing I’ll say about this film though is that if you’re a BJ’s shopper, you might get offended. I’ve never in my life seen so much product placement Costco dominates this entire movie. I’m dead serious…it’s everywhere. But to the film’s credit, some of the best jokes derive from this simple little store. There’s a great bit at the beginning with a Costco security guard, I love the connection they make between Costco and the aliens, and Ben Stiller’s character probably has one of the funniest lines towards the end that relates to…you guessed it: Costco! Bottom-line: If you see this movie, and don’t want to shop at Costco afterwards, you’re made of steel.
But aside from the constant Costco barrages, this film hinges on the chemistry of its four stars: Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, and relative newcomer Richard Ayoade. Vince Vaughn is playing Vince Vaughn, there’s really nothing else to say. I don’t know how one man can have so much energy, but he was definitely extra Vaughn-ish in this one. I wonder why he never tried out to be the new micro machines guy? Maybe it’s because I haven’t seen him in a while, but Vaughn seemed more likable than usual.
Ayoade as the rookie definitely holds his own. The writers were kind enough to give him the best dialogue so he could keep up. He’s got some real solid one-liners. But my favorite actor out of everyone was definitely Jonah Hill. Yeah, he’s being the same Jonah Hill we’ve seen before: talking tough, but no one’s buying it. Hill definitely made an effort to add something new to his persona though. He seemed way more psychotic…and it totally worked. He has several moments that really got me going. He’s the best part of the movie.
The weakest of the bunch though was Ben Stiller. Just like with Tower Heist, Stiller looks tired for some reason. While he’s still the same Stiller we’ve seen before, he just seems toned down, almost like he’s making a conscious effort not to give us the Meet the Parents ‘Bo-bo-bo-bo-bomb-bomb’ flip out. But even though he looks the most disinterested, the film works because these guys do play off each other very well. They are extremely likable, having their own little quirks.
The comedy works very well for the most part, and I love that there’s only one shock joke scene. The less shock jokes, the more points you’ll score with me. But make no mistake: there are definitely some misses here. There are too many moments were someone will say something funny, but continue to go on with the joke. We’ll call it Family Guy syndrome. There are also a few odd diversity jokes at the beginning that just don’t work. And while some of the lines involving the following topic are funny, there are just way too many dick jokes. Seriously, it’s ridiculous. Why the hell did the writers feel the need to elaborate on this subject in every scene? That needed to be trimmed down. There’s also a cop played by Will Forte that was just a miss. All the main characters were one note in this. The difference is they were funny…Forte was not.
While I do love this concept of taking the Ghostbusters premise, but replacing ghosts with aliens, this could have been something really special. What could have made this awesome is if they gave the aliens some personality, which they hint at with one of the characters. But instead, they are just generic aliens. Some of the jokes go on too long, its very cliché, but the four main characters are a blast together. They even have some fun with Stiller’s wife at the end, actress Rosemarie DeWitt. There’s plenty of fun to be had at the Watch.
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Good)