If the four boneheads who form a volunteer patrol unit in "The Watch" were real, the one to worry about would be Jonah Hill's Franklin, a police academy reject with an attitude and a butterfly knife. Busting up a local keg party, he pulls the weapon and waves it at a roomful of tipsy high-schoolers. "I will come back here," he says, "and I will kill each and every one of you."
He's kidding, but 20th Century Fox was probably right to change this comedy's title from "Neighborhood Watch" after the Trayvon Martin shooting in February raised questions about vigilante violence. Of course, "The Watch" was never intended to address such stuff. The only hot-button issue in this harmless and mostly likable comedy is space-alien immigration -- that, and the ethics of blowing up a cow with a laser.
"The Watch" is mainly about dudes goofing around (Seth Rogen is a co-writer), and most of the cast are old hands at that. Ben Stiller, as concerned citizen Evan Troutwig, and Vince Vaughn, as the not-so-concerned Bob, have made several films together; Stiller and Hill tangled in the second "Night at the Museum." But this is the first movie date between Vaughn and Hill, and they make a great couple: When Vaughn relieves himself into a beer can, Hill finds a way to join in. British newcomer Richard Ayoade, as the shy youngster Jamarcus, blends nicely into the close-knit group.
Director Akiva Schaffer pours too much blood into the alien-attack scenes, which may appeal to video gamers but tend to squash the fun. The film works best when it's loosey-goosey, throwing in side players like Will Forte as a sneering cop and Billy Crudup as a suburban creepazoid (though Rosemarie DeWitt, as Evan's sex-starved wife, deserves better). For hang time with the guys, you could do worse than "The Watch."
PLOT Four suburban crime watchers discover space aliens in their midst. RATING R (language, violence, gore, crude humor)
PLAYING AT Area theaters
BOTTOM LINE Mostly harmless comedy for the fellas, bolstered by a cast of veteran goof-offs. Warn your date about the gory alien scenes.
Ben Stiller's top 5 at the box office
How will "The Watch" rank among Ben Stiller's movies? Here are the five top-grossing movies in which he has appeared (sorry, that means none of the animated "Madagascar" flicks).
1. "Meet the Fockers" (2004) -- $279,261,160
2. "Night at the Museum" (2006) -- $250,863,268
3. "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian" (2009) -- $177,243,721
4. "There's Something About Mary" (1998) -- $176,484,651
5. "Meet the Parents" (2000) -- $166,244,045