Isn’t it about time that Ben Stiller stops playing a straight man? After the Meet the Parents nonsense and last year’s stupid Tower Heist, it should be clear that he isn’t funny when he isn’t playing a funny character. Perhaps that’s why he’s recently said he’s making a sequel to Zoolander. But in this movie, yet again, Ben Stiller plays someone impossible to care about. He plays Evan, a straight laced, boring, flat, uninteresting character with unfulfilled dreams and a wife (Rosemarie DeWitt) that doesn’t actually matter in the story at all. There are some attempts at paying off some severe lies and untruths, but the “lesson” (if there is one), is bland and shoehorned into the script in that “maybe they should learn something” manner.
But that’s because it seems like everyone forgot that this was supposed to be a comedy about a neighborhood watch that ends up dealing with an alien invasion (mild spoiler, but that much has been revealed in all the trailers and interviews). Vince Vaughn plays Bob, a Vince Vaughn archetype with a daughter (so there’s a minor storyline there that ends up being also boring) — but it’s basically like someone doing an impression of Vince Vaughn. Jonah Hill plays Franklin, a maladjusted high school dropout with delusions of competence and severe mental issues that are never really addressed. There’s also the actually funny Richard Ayoade (Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace), playing Jamarcus, although it turns out that his character doesn’t make sense (can’t explain more without giving away plot twists).
The simple story is this: Evan plays a Costco (product placement throughout the movie) manager that is boring, and then one of his employees gets mysteriously killed. So he decides to start a neighborhood watch, joined by the Vince Vaughn-y Bob, the insane Franklin, and the only actually funny one, Jamarcus. And then aliens, etc.
Honestly, there are a few laughs, mainly by Richard Ayoade and Will Forte, who plays a nutty cop that suspects Evan of being a killer. But Will Forte can do a lot with terrible material, which he does here. A few extraneous subplots contain some humor, but when you don’t care about the main characters, you don’t especially care if they make it out alive. This is a movie that does not shy away from its R-rating — it gets quite bloody and everyone uses profanity. There are a few flashes of nudity, but it also seems like “oh, we need some nudity, don’t we?”
Maybe they should’ve remembered to include a movie.
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