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Entries in Vince Vaughn (2)

Friday
Jul272012

The Watch

The idea of a comedy centered on a neighborhood watch group isn’t a bad one. Some wild and unpredictable things can happen in a small town on a quiet night, but a premise alone is not enough to sustain a film. Despite a mostly likable cast of actors, this week’s newest film, The Watch, is hopelessly unfunny. It struggles to gain even the slightest bit of momentum, a strange problem in a movie that amps up the unpredictability by throwing invading aliens hell bent on destroying Earth into the mix. The film is only 98 minutes long, but it feels at least double that. It’s a waste of time and talent, both in front of and behind the camera (at least in terms of writing) and it’s sure to be one of the lamest and flattest comedies of the year.

Evan (Ben Stiller) is a nice guy. He’s active in his community and forms a number of groups to better it. He’s also the general manager of the local Costco, a job not many people would find fulfilling, but one that he adores with all his heart. He’s ever the optimist and loves those around him, but one night, his overnight security guard is murdered. Determined to get to the bottom of it, he forms a neighborhood watch with local thrill seekers Bob (Vince Vaughn), Franklin (Jonah Hill) and Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade). They quickly discover that the murderer isn’t human, however, and that an alien race has landed on their planet that intends to wipe them out. Despite the danger, the men vow to stop that from happening.

The Watch does some things you expect and some things you don’t, but it does nearly all of them wrong. For example, in the film, Jonah Hill plays a toughened wanna-be cop, one that has no problem eyeing people down and whipping out his switchblade. He charges headfirst into battle unafraid of the consequences. This goes against our created perception of who this person is as an actor, but the problem is Hill can’t pull this type of roll off. He’s at his best when he’s vulnerable, nerdy and outspoken, not acting like he’s tougher than tough. Vaughn, on the other hand, essentially plays himself. He’s still obnoxious, crude and loud (does he really need to yell every line?) and he overpowers everyone else in the film, especially poor Richard Ayoade, who is given hardly a line to speak at all for the first half of the film and is mostly relegated to sitting their prettily while the rest of the cast plays off each other. Vaughn’s shtick has become tiresome, wearing out its welcome sometime around when the credits for Wedding Crashers ended. He hasn’t had a hit (or even a decent movie) in at least six years and there’s a reason for that. The man needs to switch things up a bit.

Vaughn needed to go against typecast and Hill needed to remain the same. This is just one example of the film having the right idea, but then ignoring it and doing the exact opposite. It correctly puts the group into some precarious situations, but it telegraphs them so far in advance that they’re hardly a surprise when they finally roll around. One of these scenes revolves around a new neighbor who acts suspiciously and may or may not be an alien, but his mannerisms are so sexual that what’s really going on in his basement is obvious. The late movie twist is similarly transparent, but it’s not its predictability that’s the problem; it’s that a certain character’s actions and motivations are called into question once it happens. There’s no real reason behind any of what happens. It just coasts along straining for jokes, never really grabbing any, and then it ends.

But it doesn’t end before a giant action scene so reminiscent of James Cameron’s 1986 sequel Aliens that I’m a little surprised it didn’t reference it. The only thing that separates this alien action scene from others is where the aliens’ weak spot is (I’ll give you one guess), but such immaturity is not inherently funny. After watching this dreck, you’d be surprised if anyone involved in its making has even heard the word “funny.” I’m so vehemently against this brain killing film that I have no qualms telling you to skip it, though the product placement is so egregious, it probably won’t matter. In what amounts to essentially a cinematic fellation of the wholesale store, Costco could have conceivably covered the film’s entire budget. It will most likely be a success, but nevertheless, comedies like this are not okay. Lazy, dull and stupid only begin to describe it. Most real life neighborhood watches are uneventful and boring, but it’s hard to imagine any are more boring than sitting through The Watch.

The Watch receives 0.5/5

Friday
Jan142011

The Dilemma

Over the years, Ron Howard’s name has become synonymous with quality. While it would be hard to deny the talent he possesses both in front of and behind the camera, his last few cinematic ventures have been rocky. Aside from 2008’s Oscar nominated Frost/Nixon, films like The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons have shown a dip, but his latest, titled The Dilemma, makes those movies look like masterpieces. I cannot claim to have seen everything Mr. Howard has directed, but of the films I have, none are worse than this.

It’s a simple story. Ronny (Vince Vaughn) is in a happy relationship with his longtime girlfriend, Beth (Jennifer Connelly). His best friend, Nick (Kevin James) also seems to be happy with his wife, Geneva (Winona Ryder), but Ronny soon learns that Geneva is cheating on Nick with a guy named Zip (Channing Tatum). Although he wants to tell him, he’s afraid the information may interfere with their latest business endeavor that could net them a huge deal with a major automotive company, so he keeps it quiet, which leads to heaps of trouble.

So for the next two hours, we watch as Ronny lies to everybody around him, a frustrating screenplay tactic to force in as many wacky scenarios and awkward situations as possible. The Dilemma is one of those movies where all the main character has to do is tell the truth and everything would be fixed. Instead, his ill-advised decisions get dragged to the point where misunderstandings begin to repeat and redundancy kicks in.

If you ask me, deciding whether or not to tell your best friend that his wife is cheating on him is easy. You do it. As the film progressed, however, I wondered if it even mattered. New revelations about all of the characters popped up and I began to realize that, with the exception of Beth, none of them were truly innocent. All had skeletons in their closets, most of which are left shamefully unexplored, including Nick’s weekly visits to a local massage parlor where he may or may not have been receiving sexual favors. The characters are simply too unlikable for us to care whether or not they end up happy. They could have ended up in a gutter somewhere and I would have walked out emotionally the same.

The Dilemma claims to be a comedy, but laughs are non-existent and that’s no exaggeration. When it isn’t taking itself seriously as a laughably half-baked statement on the nature of love and marriage, it dabbles in what some may call jokes. Regardless of how you classify them, they all land flat on the ground like a skateboarder attempting a trick with only three wheels. Both Vaughn and James, two guys I have never found funny, try their hardest to be witty, but have no comedic chemistry. Rather than play off each other, they seem tied down to the script, which at its best is tolerable and at its worst is completely unfunny and painfully maudlin.

There’s something unpleasant about The Dilemma that I can’t quite put my finger on. It could be due to its cynical look at relationships or its borderline deplorable characters, but there’s no real reason to see it. Ron Howard has had an amazing career that isn’t even close to being finished, but he deserves better and so do you.

The Dilemma receives 1/5