The Watch (2012)
by Steve Habrat
What do you get when you put Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, and Jonah Hill in the same movie? Apparently, an extremely mediocre product with a flabby screenplay and a small handful of memorable chuckles. The Watch is the newest comedy misfire in a summer that has been loaded with comedy misfires that really hurt (The Dictator, That’s My Boy). In a way it is pitiful because The Watch stumbled right out of the gate and it has never really been able to right itself. The film has been unfairly overshadowed by the real-life murder of Trayvon Martin, who was shot by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch coordinator. The studio countered with scrubbing away “Neighborhood” from the title and they crossed their fingers that the film would still be a big late summer draw. Unfortunately, they didn’t seem to realize that their science-fiction/horror/comedy hybrid wasn’t really all that funny or freaky. The Watch really tanks when it asks Vaughn and Stiller to deliver most of the funnies through improvised sequences that are supposed to act as the glue holding the shoddy alien invasion plot together. In all actuality, it is slightly embarrassing for Vaughn and Stiller, who are both talented guys if they are handed the right material. They are just lucky that Hill steps up and does most of the heavy lifting.
The Watch takes us to the small Ohio (!) town of Glenview, a peaceful community that Evan Trautwig (Played by Stiller) calls home. The busybody Evan works as the manager of the local Costco but his public service doesn’t stop there. In his free time, Evan creates a number of neighborhood clubs ranging from the jogging club to the Spanish club. After one of his Costco security guards is gruesomely murdered and skinned one night, Evan decides that he is going to make sure that the killer is brought to justice. Evan forms the Neighborhood Watch with the hope of attracting a slew of gung-ho recruits eager to wrangle this menace. Evan ends up with the mouthy construction worker Bob (Played by Vaughn), the mentally unstable wannabe cop Franklin (Played by Hill), and the recent divorcee Jamarcus (Played by Richard Ayoade). What begins as a distraction from their boring day-to-day lives takes a bizarre turn when the group stumbles upon a strange metallic orb lying on the side of the road. In addition the orb, a number of locals are turning up dead in the most gruesome ways imaginable. As the group’s investigation deepens, they stumble upon an alien invasion that threatens to wipe out the planet.
A good majority of The Watch finds our four concerned citizens plunked down in Bob’s glorified man-cave while they sip beers and gripe about their daily problems. This would all be fine with me expect that these four funny-guys can’t seem to gel. Stiller is all jittery pleas for the group to stay focused while overseeing the club with an iron fist. Stiller’s jitters sometimes seem like they are not simply a character tick but maybe nerves over having to improvise every joke he delivers. Vaughn is the polar opposite of Stiller but not in a good way. He is meant to be the party animal who finds comfort in the company of his bros. Most of his motor mouth improvising will have you wishing he would stick a cork in it for a while and let Ayoade and Hill have the floor. The British Ayoade is a promising talent but he rarely gets a chance to show you what he is made of. While Ayoade tries to brighten things up, Hill takes things from ho-hum to hilarious when he finds his whacked out groove. He gets all the films best lines with his dry delivery. Halfway through the film, Hill gets a moment at a teen party that had my group of friends and I in stitches. Sadly, the sequence doesn’t last long enough so savor it while it lasts.
The best parts of The Watch come from the more emotionally charged moments in the script. Jared Stern, Seth Rogen, and Evan Goldberg serve as the screenwriters here so it is no surprise that the intimate buddy moments are splendidly written. A small scene between Bob and Evan in the middle of the film is a standout, one that narrowly saves the entire film. The scene finds the two just sitting on a park bench having a few beers and talking about all their problems a home. The scene really hits the mark when Evan confesses a piercing secret that really makes you feel for the guy and understand his intensity a bit more. Bob, on the other hand, is a terrified and confused parent who just wants what is right for his teenage daughter, a nice touch to an incredibly annoying character. Meanwhile Ayoade’s, Jamarcus and Hill’s Franklin are both left underdeveloped, surprising considering they are much more interesting than the characters that Stiller and Vaughn are stuck with. The script is eager to give away secrets about Jamarcus so when we finally arrive at the big twist near the end of the film, it falls short because we saw it coming about forty-five minutes ago. We never really do learn much about Franklin, only what he chooses to reveal in early scenes, which is that he is a deranged failure who shacks up with his mom. I was left wanting more from his character.
The rest of the background players of The Watch all quickly evaporate from your memory when the credits roll, which doesn’t really work in the film’s favor. Will Forte shows up as a bug-eyed cop who is dumber than dirt. Rosemarie DeWitt is present as Evan’s wife Abby, who is mostly there to look sexy and try to seduce him. Billy Crudup pops in as Evan’s creepy new neighbor who may be up to no good in his eerily lit basement. The last act of the film falls victim to tons of lousy CGI aliens, distracting explosions, and chaotic gunfights that are meant to riff on action movie clichés. It appears that the filmmakers suddenly remembered that they had to tie up the alien invasion plot so they just blew a bunch of stuff up and called it a day. The rest of the film resorts to clunky jokes about penises, orgies, and fellatio, all of which are complimented by classic hip-hop songs, which do nothing to make the film funnier. I will admit that I did chuckle more than a few times throughout The Watch but I only laughed hard two or three times. I should have laughed hard a hell of a lot more than that, especially with this cast of clowns at the wheel. The Watch ends up being another colossal letdown in the comedy department.
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
by Corinne Rizzo
Imagine every screwball moment of your exploited genius childhood narrated as a prelude to your adulthood by Alec Baldwin. Then imagine your adulthood reaches its pinnacle way early and the only way you see fit to recover from the disappointment of an early peak is to move back home. At the same time as your bother and adopted sister.
This is the premise for Wes Anderson’s third essay into character structure and storytelling (also co-written by Owen Wilson)—and so far his most successful.
As Royal Tenenbaum, the father of these three genius children, is evicted from the lofty conveniences of his hotel residence for payment delinquency, he receives news of a suitor after his wife, whom he’s been separated from for most of the children’s childhood and even adulthood. When the news hits that Henry Sherman, Etheline Tenenbaum’s accountant, is interested in marrying her, Royal takes the opportunity to get back into her life by faking a terminal illness, scoring himself a place to live as well as an advantage to win over his the affection of his estranged children (who one by one have found themselves living with their mother, Etheline).
Our characters consist of Richie, played by Luke Wilson, a tennis professional by the age of thirteen by the nick name “Baumer”. Richie Tennenbaum was the apple of Royal’s eye which lead his brother Chas, a financial and technical prodigy, into a lifetime of sibling rivalry that keeps him at a distance. Our third character in the list of siblings is adopted sister Margot, an early successful play write in love with her brother (but not by blood) Richie.
Richie’s best friend, played by Owen Wilson, brings back the original chemistry that jumpstarted Anderson’s career, though the cast of The Royal Tenenbaums is held up by each actor in the film and lead by no one in particular. Even the narration of the film by Alec Baldwin is essential as well as the smallest parts played by Bill Murray (as Ralleigh St. Claire) are crucial to the twisted familial clusterfuck that is the Tenenbaum reunion.
But this isn’t just your run of the mill, everyone hates each other and fights type of dysfunction. The entire family rallies behind Royal, even Chas who is reluctant to do so. So no family member is left behind. Everyone loves each other, though there are some who love each other more and those with more of an even keel on the situation.
The drama in the film exists in places you would most expect it to live within your own family, but certainly not on the screen. Think about it for a minute: You and your siblings living MTV’s Real World style. Pretty much the best and worst of everything you’ve ever known with an ending that is as hopeful as the Real World is hopeless.
And Wes Anderson knows this drama and knows how to portray it. The themes and colors of previous films exist in The Royal Tenenbaums and the themes and colors of films to come are hinted in it. Seamlessly, Wes Anderson has created almost a centerpiece to his cannon of work, not as a pinnacle (by no means has he hit his peak) but as a confident stride.
Plus, I mean, the soundtrack! If you ever wanted to seem cool in front of anyone, just down load a few of Wes Anderson’s soundtracks and act like you know exactly what you’re listening to. Or better yet, get to know what you’re listening to and be extra cool.
Top Five Reasons To Watch The Royal Tenenbaums:
1) You learn what a javelina is! Unless you already know and if you do already know, skip to reason #2.
2) The kid who plays Richie Tenenbaum as a child is a riot.
3) Find Kumar Pallana.
4) Shameless smoking and drinking.
5) If you are unsure of where your style of dress is going, you could just adopt the style of one of the Tenenbaums and never think twice about it. Or even look to Henry Sherman for an example.