Movies on a Plane: The Watch

Now unlike Step Up Revolution, which a surprising number of only superficial similarities with Battleship, the third movie that I viewed on my recent intercontinental flight, The Watch, actually has a lot of key story beats and plot points in common, in spite of the fact that it is quite a different film.  This only goes to show just how flexible the whole alien invasion genre really is.

The quick rundown with Battleship includes:  1. Both films are about alien invasions (ok, that’s a gimme) which take place in very specific, localized environments, 2. both sets of aliens are humanoid, vastly superior in strength and technology, hard-to-kill, and (with one notable exception) completely non-conversational and non-sympathetic, 3. both films feature a scene where the corpse of an alien shockingly turns out to not be a corpse after all, resulting in a hand-to-hand fight where the humans are completely outmatched, 4. both movies have a climax that involves destroying a transmitter before the aliens can summon their respective armadas to come and fully invade the earth, 5. neither movie addresses the niggling issue that destroying this transmitter doesn’t alter the fact that there are a whole lot of aliens still out there who seem highly motivated to take over the earth, and 6. both movies feature “b” stories in which the main character not only sorts out his relational issues with his significant other, but also eventually finds a sense of identity by being a successful part of an armed, uniformed, unit, for which he is commended at the end.

The main difference, of course, is that The Watch is a comedy featuring the well known Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn.  Stiller plays Evan, another control freak – albeit a sympathetic one – who forms a Neighborhood Watch when the night watchman at the Costco he manages is inexplicably murdered.  Of course, the only people who join him are a series of oddballs who don’t really share his vision, but who stick around anyway.  As a result, a big part of the movie is spent on the team bonding – with their failures, their successes, their inevitable break up followed by their re-uniting just in time for the climax.  Hmm, in that sense, the movie looks a little like Step Up Revolution.

Along the way their is a fair amount of crudeness, which was tempered in my viewing since it was an edited version on the plane.  On one hand I appreciated this, but on the other it was a bit distracting because it was that sort of editing where the more offensive language is replaced by either the actors or sound-a-likes saying more innocuous comments.  This process was done very badly so the lines, often intended to be the funniest ones, were more jarring than anything else.

Not that I think I would have found it terribly funny in any case.  There are a few laughs here and there – with the boys’ raw reactions to discovering alien weapons or alien corpses, and some good gags about Costco itself during the climax.  Those laughs, and some surprising heart in Stiller and Vaughn’s relationships with each other and their families, keeps the movie from plumbing the depths of either of the first two movies on my in-flight viewing, even though it’s a much smaller film.  But still, The Watch is kind of stupid, and the good stuff is not really good enough to justify the time and energy.

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