Troubled by unfortunate event after unfortunate event The Watch sidesteps faux pas to come out on top as a consistently funny sci-fi comedy that doesn't let its high concept tangle up a bevy of one-liners. The script penned by Jared Stern Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg assumes you've seen a few movies before entering the theater (mainly any sci-fi movie made in the 1980s). "Summer movie logic" is the foundation for The Watch's ridiculous plot which finds four adult nincompoops teaming up to form a Neighborhood Watch trying to solve the murder of a local Costco employee and eventually pursuing a killer extraterrestrial. Instead of making sense of it all The Watch wisely focuses on its four leads: Ben Stiller Vince Vaughn Jonah Hill and The IT Crowd's Richard Ayoade — a quartet whose bro banter goes a long way in spicing up the dust-covered material. There's nothing revelatory to be found in The Watch but the cast's knack for improv a poetry of the profane makes the adventure worth…viewing.
Director Akiva Schaffer (Hot Rod) establishes his two-dimensional characters quickly and bluntly smashing together broad personality types like a Hadron Collider of cinematic comedy. Stiller's Evan is a micromanaging do-gooder who can't find time for his wife; Hill's Franklin is a mildly disturbed weapons enthusiast yearning to join the police; Ayoade is the quaint weirdo who joins the Watch to fill the void left by his divorce; Vince Vaughn is Vince Vaughn: a loud crass gent looking for a bit of male bonding. The ragtag team assembles to fight crime but they spend most of their time drinking beers in a minivan — an affair they dub "stakeouts." A perfect opportunity for banter.
For a movie about enforcing the law and alien invasions there's a surprising lack of action in The Watch. Long stretches of the film see the central players yapping back and forth about everything: Russian nesting dolls peeing in cans or the similar viscosities of alien goo and human excrement. Charisma goes a long way and Vaughn does much of the heavy lifting making up for lost time out of the spotlight (he's been virtually nonexistent since 2005's Wedding Crashers). The man spits out jokes like no other — the rest of the cast barely keeps up. Ayoade balances out Vaughn's bombardment with a tempered timed delivery that's uniquely British and rarely found on the American big screen. Even when nothing's happening in The Watch it's rarely boring.
The Watch is at its best when it goes a step further mixing the group in with outsiders and throwing them off their rhythm. Billy Crudup cuts loose as a creepy neighbor and its delightfully weird while the always-impressive Rosemarie DeWitt as Evan's wife Abby brings unexpected warmth to the couple's relationship. Sadly The Watch mishandles its greatest asset: the aliens. The film never finds a pitch perfect blend of comedy and science fiction (Ghostbusters or Galaxy Quest this is not); a few scenes where the two come together hint at the best possible scenario but more often than not The Watch avoids its sci-fi roots. A moment in which the guys haul a dead alien back to their man cave plays like an E.T.-inspired version of The Hangover credits. It's lewd and ridiculous but the rest of the film struggles to maintain that energy.
Stiller Vaughn Hill and Ayoade have all proved themselves able funnymen capable of taking weak and tired material up a notch which they're forced to do in every moment of The Watch. Schaffer can handle his talent but his direction isn't adding anything to the mix. By the third slow-motion-set-to-gangster-rap scene The Lonely Island member's obsession with non-cool-coolness is officially just an attempt at being cool (which is not all that funny). The Watch has a greater opportunity than most comedy blockbusters to go absolutely bonkers: it's rated R. But instead of taking its twist and running with it the movie plays it safe. In this case safe is non-stop jokes about the many facets of human reproduction.
Wild Tigers quickly brings us into the ambivalent mind-set of Logan (Malcolm Stumpf) a dreamy 13 year-old in the midst of a powerful sexual awakening. Told through static voice-overs done in a muffled style and an unabashed realism 23-year-old director Cam Archer holds nothing back while telling this brutally honest coming-of-age tale. Logan is a daydreamer who drifts about in a constant state of melancholy passively accepting the regular slings and arrows that come his way. He eventually finds and befriends Rodeo (Patrick White) a popular kid equally somber whom he follows around by day and dreams about by night. Thus Rodeo--Logan’s first real crush--becomes the catalyst of change as Logan faces certain transformation and the harsh prejudices that follow. Everything in Logan’s world is bleak—from the school bullies who hate him because he is different to his struggling young mother (Fairuza Balk) who lacks the capacity to understand him to the hopeless school faculty unable to offer any guidance. He’s a true fish out of water but marches on through each exhaustive moment hoping to someday understand the nature of his feelings. Stumpf’s androgynous looks cast him perfectly as the pouting Logan. He’s hunched often shirtless with a thatch of hair dangling over his brooding eyes and never strays from the sullen tone delivering his soft monosyllabic lines flawlessly. As the equally lost Rodeo the handsome young White captures the essence of today’s often disillusioned and often apathetic youth dead on. While Balk although still a tad too young-looking to play the working mother of a teenage boy brings an added realism to the supporting cast with her skill and signature gravely voice. TV actor Tom Gilroy shines in his small yet substantial part as the idealistic school principal constantly calling school assemblies in a fruitless attempt to send some type of moral message to his checked-out students. An obvious student of director Todd Solondz (Welcome to the Dollhouse) Larry Clark (Kids Bully) and even Gus Van Sant (Drugstore Cowboy Elephant) who executive produced Wild Tigers I Have Known first-timer Cam Archer still explores filmmaking his way. Despite film-student-meets-MTV moments his sensibilities come through clearly and honestly patiently delivered as if we are watching a slideshow of vacation shots—except this flipbook attempts to illuminated a knotted mind. Archer truly has a keen eye for beauty. His dreamy scenes are often majestic loaded with colorful symbols creating video art rather than traditional narrative. But to its detriment the art tends to take over the story more often than not. Sadly there is nothing in Wild Tigers that will surprise any devotee of Solondz Van Sant or Clark but it is clear why so many have taken an interest in the talented young Archer who fortunately has many more years to hone his craft.