A veteran of the stage, TV and film, Atterbury was one of the most respected character actors in Hollywood from the early 1950s through the 80s. His height and gaunt features made him a natural for We...
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.
Conducted theater seminars at several colleges including Skidmore, RPI and College of Saint Rose
With his wife, Ellen, owned and operated the Tamarack Playhouse, a summer stock theater in Albany NY, for five years
Worked as an ABC-TV series regular as the moribund but feisty patriarch, Jonas Paine, on the short-lived comedy, "Thicker Than Water"
Worked as a CBS-TV series regular as Grandpa Aldon Apple on Earl Hamner, Jr's "Apple's Way"
With his wife, Ellen, owned and operated the Playhouse in Albany NY, the only Equity winter stock company in the country
Toured isolated military bases during World War II with a special comedy entertainment program
Began performing on stage in vaudeville, concerts, and various Shubert musicals
Co-hosted, with his wife, a TV show entitled "Backstage with the Atterburys"
Decorated by the War Department for entertaining the troops
Moved to Beverly Hills and began career as a Hollywood character actor
Appeared at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles in "Who's Happy Now"
Worked as the radio editor for the Philadelphia Ledger
Retired from acting
Worked as the general manager of the Philadelphia Ledger radio station WHAT for several years; also performed on the air
Appeared on Broadway in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"
After WWII, initiated one of the first "theater therapy" programs at Rhode Island Hospital in Utica NY
A veteran of the stage, TV and film, Atterbury was one of the most respected character actors in Hollywood from the early 1950s through the 80s. His height and gaunt features made him a natural for Westerns in his younger days, but he served just as well in thrillers, film noirs, horror quickies and cop movies. In his later years, his feisty yet friendly manner made Atterbury a favorite choice for colorful grandfather roles. He appeared in more than 75 features and 300 TV episodes in the course of his career. One of Atterbury's best-remembered appearances was in "North by Northwest", where he plays the weathered-looking, taciturn man who dryly observes to Cary Grant that "That plane's dusting crops where there ain't no crops," setting the stage for one of Hitchcock's most celebrated set pieces.<p>Prior to going to Hollywood in 1953, Atterbury's major contribution to the entertainment field was as a theater owner and operator. He and his wife Ellen ran two professional theaters: the Tamarack Playhouse, a summer stock theater in Lake Pleasant NY; and the Playhouse in Albany NY. The latter was the only Equity winter stock company in the country. In Albany, the Atterburys provided opportunities for the young talents of Grace Kelly, Kirk Douglas, Karl Malden, Cliff Robertson, Barbara Cook and Tom Bosley.