“The Watch” is a bad movie that also happened to be released at the least opportune time.

A comedy with very few laughs, the latest from Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill also has the misfortune of being a film that hits a little too close to home – harking to memories of not only the Trayvon Martin shooting, but the Aurora, Colo., shooting as well.

That bad luck could easily be overlooked if the film was good. But it’s not, despite the presence of three prominent comedic actors.

Stiller plays Evan, the manager of a Costco in suburban Ohio who decides to start a neighborhood watch after one of his employees is killed.

Evan is joined on the watch by three neighbors, Bob (Vaughn), Franklin (Hill) and Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade), a trio of eccentrics with their own agenda for being part of the group.

At first, the watch is just a mundane exercise in guy bonding, until the group uncovers an alien invasion is taking place, shaking up the neighborhood.

While watching “The Watch,” I couldn’t help but think about the Martin case and Aurora, with scenes in the film having an eerie similarity to both events. That’s enough to put the film in uncomfortable territory, but it gets worse given the weak material.

Despite a script with three writers, including Seth Rogen, “The Watch” never feels like it is going anywhere. It’s as if director Akiva Schaffer just turned on the camera and asked his cast to try to make it up as they went along.

It wouldn’t be a bad plan if the cast was on its game, but most gags resort to the lowest common denominator – “The Watch” uses vulgarity to more than earn its R rating.

It’s really sad and disappointing to see a group so talented given so little to do (and that includes Rosemarie DeWitt, who was so good in the recent indie film “Your Sister’s Sister”).

As hard as they try, and I’m not sure they are even trying that hard, they can’t save “The Watch” from being one of the worst films in 2012 to date.

DVD dandy of the week

This week’s dandy is “The Lorax” (B), the latest Dr. Seuss adaptation directed by Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda, the team behind “Despicable Me.” This is a charming family film – even as it threatens to become an environmental infomercial.

“The Lorax” centers on Ted (voiced by Zac Efron) and Audrey (Taylor Swift), two teens living in a town completely made of plastic, where trees no longer exist.

When Audrey tells Ted of her wish to see a real tree, Ted sets out on a quest to make that happen. The quest leads him to The Once-ler (voiced by Ed Helms), a mysterious hermit who tells Ted about his encounter with a grumpy creature named the Lorax (voiced by Danny DeVito) and how their encounter led to the current tree-less world.

“The Lorax” is basically nothing more than a storybook come to life. It works really well, thanks to the keen visual eyes of Renaud and Balda. This is a very detailed, vibrant world full of fun creatures and interesting characters. I really enjoyed a trio of singing goldfish and liked the dynamics between Ted and Audrey. Betty White is also delightful as Ted’s grandmother.

Ironically enough, the Lorax is actually one of the least interesting characters in the film – a one-note kind of fellow that thankfully has limited screen time.

The story isn’t quite up to the visuals, though. I didn’t really have a problem with it, but I can totally understand those who might see the film’s environmental message with its strong liberal undertones. Who knew Dr. Seuss was a tree-hugging hippie?

I’m willing to overlook it, though, because for the most part I had fun watching “The Lorax.” After missteps like “The Cat in the Hat” and “Horton Hears a Who,” it’s nice to see a Dr. Seuss film that is entertaining.

“The Lorax” is rated PG for brief mild language and will be available on DVD on Tuesday.

— To get sportswriter/movie reviewer Micheal Compton’s up-to-the minute thoughts on all things movies, visit his blog at mcompton.wordpress.com or his Twitter page at twitter.com/mcompton428. You can also email him at mcompton@bgdailynews.com.


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