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.
CBS has filed a lawsuit against ABC over the upcoming reality show Life in a Glass House, which the network says is a "carbon copy" of Big Brother. Apparently, no one's going to mention the fact that both shows bear a striking resemblance to The Real World.
In the complaint filed last week, CBS claims ABC is guilty of copyright infringement, trade secret misappropriation, unfair competition, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty. Like Big Brother, Life in a Glass House focuses on contestants living in a house together while competing to avoid eviction and win a cash prize. CBS also claims that at least 19 former Big Brother staffers are working on the new show.
ABC insists the show is totally original, stating, "The differences between Glass House and Big Brother are both fundamental and obvious, ranging from Glass House’s interactive elements and audience participation to its deployment of cutting edge technologies.” However, if the show is a duplicate of the successful reality show it certainly wouldn't be the first time. Judging from the programs below, when TV executives see a good idea, they like to copy it. And who can blame them? It's so much easier than coming up with original programming.
30 Rock & Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
In 2006. it wasn't clear that Tina Fey would triumph in a showdown with Oscar-winner Aaron Sorkin, but 30 Rock has just been renewed for its seventh and final season and Studio 60 is long gone. Fey summed up the difference between the shows when she joked at the 2007 Writers Guild Awards, "I hear Aaron Sorkin is in Los Angeles wearing the same dress — but longer, and not funny." Ouch.
West Wing & Commander in Chief
Speaking of Sorkin, ABC's West Wing knock off flopped after only one season. The worst thing about the show: Geena Davis got heaps of media attention for playing the first female commander in chief, and few people noticed that Battlestar Galactica's Mary McDonnell was playing a far more interesting female president on the Sci Fi network.
Mad Men & The Playboy Club
Like that AMC show that explores cultural change in the '60s? Then you're going to love the network version that's light on social commentary and heavy on bunny costumes!
Pawn Stars & Hardcore Pawn
Thanks History Channel and TruTV. The world definitely needed two shows about pawn shops.
Half the Shows on TLC
TLC deserves some special recognition when it comes to copycat shows. In addition to running Addicted and Hoarding: Buried Alive, which bear a strong resemblance to two popular A&E shows, the network has actually started ripping off itself. In March it ran the special The Bates Family: And Baby Makes 19, which seems poised to replace 19 Kids and Counting if the Duggars ever get tired of showbiz and babymaking.
Is ABC's 'The Glass House' a 'Big Brother' Ripoff?
What Snooki Can Learn from Other Reality TV Pregnancies
Six Reality Television Fighting Words I Never Want to Hear Again