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Product placement and moronic jokes suffocate space-comedyProduct placement and moronic jokes suffocate space-comedy

Insert big-ball joke here:

Insert big-ball joke here:

The Watch
Starring Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill. Directed by Akiva Schaffer. Cinemark 14, Feather River Cinemas and Paradise Cinema 7. Rated R.
Rated 1.0

Last year’s Attack the Block was a fun little movie. Produced by Edgar “Shaun of the Dead” Wright, it was a wickedly funny sci-fi thriller about a bunch of London hooligans defending their turf from toothy invaders from space. Being British, the dialect might’ve been impenetrable to Yankee ears, but it was crafted well enough that you really didn’t need the dialogue to follow the proceedings. (Just use the subtitle option; the writing in itself is pretty damned clever.)

And now, for the folks who prefer their comedy in comfortable Wonder Bread mode, we’ve all been blessed with The Watch. If one were of a charitable mind, they’d say that The Watch was, um, “inspired” by Attack the Block. A more cynical mind might call a knockoff “a knockoff.”

Here we have Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughan and Jonah Hill as loathsome suburban knobs whose Neighborhood Watch duties suddenly rise to intergalactic scale as a bunch of slimy critters invade the local Costco to build a transmitter to kick off their invasion of Earth. Blah, blah, blah.

It could be fun, but it isn’t. Most of the care taken is in crafting set pieces for the gratuitous product placement—and setting the last half-hour’s worth of action in Costco affords many opportunities for this. And to be fair, the action of the last half hour is almost fun as a rip-off/tribute to the old arcade shooter Area 51.

Unfortunately, the first interminable hour is set to the mundane banter and character arcs of the dimwitted trio. And their occasional testimonials about how cool Costco is. (Which stocks plenty of Anheuser-Busch products, Rayovac batteries and Magnum condoms.) And this being an American sitcom co-written by Seth Rogen (Superbad), each of these placements gets its own Rogen spin—e.g. the batteries being used to power a stockpile of dildos.

I take the grouping of dildos as a metaphor for the rocket scientists behind this tedious chunk of non-fun. It shares the common ailment of contemporary comedy in that it’s written by arrested-development middle-aged men targeting the teenage-boy demographic. Which means lots of dick and cum and gay-panic jokes. There are some boobs, too (aside from the leads).

The only female presence here is Rosemarie DeWitt as Stiller’s horny wife and some blond kid as Vaughn’s horny daughter. That’s pretty much their character development. Otherwise they’re just props. Which is too bad, ’cause DeWitt is one of the few rays of light on display here. The other is Richard Ayoade (of the Brit shows Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place and The IT Crowd) who drops by to see how hanging with the walking lobotomized feels.

If these kinds of comedies are your bag, you might find this funny. But if you’re expecting clever dialogue and something other than a narrative written with crayons you might wanna save some money by staying home, popping your own corn and settling in with a rental. … Say, did I mention how much fun Attack the Block is?