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Too much to watch in The Watch'

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Comedy overwhelmed by its three leads

We're entering the tail end of blockbuster season. Now that the last of the three monster superhero releases has hit screens, with 'The Dark Knight Rises' flying by the $500 million mark in global box office, we can look forward to the gradual tapering off of the big showy premieres.

That's not to say we won't get some good movies over the next month or so. In fact, the chances are good that we're going to get some high-quality stuff.

Unfortunately, 'The Watch' doesn't really fall into that category.

The movie follows Evan (Ben Stiller, 'Tower Heist'), a Costco manager in Ohio who starts clubs in an attempt to find the satisfaction absent from his marriage. However, Evan's quiet little town is rocked when a security guard is murdered in that very Costco. Evan's kneejerk reaction is of course to found another club a neighborhood watch.

Alas, his attempts to rally the town are less than successful, with only three people responding to his call to arms. There's Bob (Vince Vaughn, 'The Dilemma'), a fast-talking construction manager struggling through an antagonistic relationship with his teenaged daughter. There's Franklin (Jonah Hill, '21 Jump Street'), a loose cannon type who couldn't join the police force due to his failing the physical, written and psychological exams. And finally, there's Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade, TV's 'The IT Crowd'), an awkwardly amiable newcomer to the neighborhood who hopes only that the watch results in some fantasy fulfillment.

The foursome attempts to investigate the security guard's death, but before long they find themselves pulled into a conspiracy that goes far beyond anything they ever could have expected. More people are being killed, and before long it becomes clear that the killers aren't mere murderers at all.

They're aliens. And the only people standing between them and a full-scale invasion of Earth are the men of the Neighborhood Watch.

On paper, this movie looks pretty good. Stiller, Vaughn and Hill are all A-listers in the comedy world, while Ayoade has a legit comedic pedigree in his own right, though he's not as well known on this side of the Atlantic. The director is Akiva Schaffer, one-third of comedy trio The Lonely Island and 'SNL' digital short mastermind. These are all dudes who know how to make with the funny.

And yet it never quite clicks.

The biggest issue is that each of the three headliners appears to be operating in a vacuum. Stiller is doing his standard neurotic nebbish bit, constantly put upon and filled with frustration. Vaughn turns everything up to 11 as per usual, shouting cursewords and dropping into his practically trademarked snappy patter. Hill re-embraces his arrested development, playing yet another man-child that combines unnecessary aggression with social maladjustment. The three of them bounce off one another rather than mesh together. That's not to say that 'The Watch' isn't funny it has some good moments but the three leads seem content to go back to their respective comfort zones, regardless of whether those zones work well together.

Ayoade is actually the glue that holds the whole thing together. While the stars are all shoving their own shticks to the forefront, Ayoade is content to play along, resulting in some of the most genuinely funny moments in the entire film. There are a couple of sweet supporting turns from Will Forte ('Rock of Ages') and the legendary R. Lee Ermey ('Toy Story 3') as well.

As odd as it may sound, 'The Watch' probably would have been a better movie without all the star power. The three guys at the top are each used to being center stage, and while they kind of tried to share the spotlight, it simply doesn't click. There are flashes of hilarity glimpses of what the movie could have been but it isn't enough. There's no need to watch 'The Watch.'

2 out of 5

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