Watch, The (2012)
Release Date: July 27th, 2012 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Akiva Schaffer Actors: Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, Richard Ayoade, Rosemarie DeWitt, Will Forte, Erin Moriarty, Cathy Shim
t’s got a great cast, an interesting setup, some hilarious dialogue… and space aliens. “The Watch” is stocked with immature humor, gross-out gags and crass conversations as one would expect, but once the otherworldly visitors appear, it simply doesn’t gel. The concept of defending against an extraterrestrial invasion has been successfully merged with humor before (see “Men in Black,” “Mars Attacks!” and “Attack the Block”), but here it feels like an afterthought, neither authentic nor necessary in conveying a story of misfit buddies attempting to protect their town. There are a few undeniably funny moments of vulgarity styled after the laughs often found in the works of Jonah Hill and Seth Rogen, but these segments feel misplaced in a film that can’t wrap itself around a sensible plot to showcase the comedy.
Evan Trautwig (Ben Stiller) loves his town of Glenview, Ohio and is deeply devoted to both the community and his job as the manager of the local Costco. But when the night guard at his store is brutally murdered, Evan determines to get even more involved and creates his own “neighborhood watch” to help the undermanned police department track down the killer. Recruiting Bob (Vince Vaughn), an overprotective father who just wants to hang out with the guys, Franklin (Jonah Hill), a trigger-happy maniac rejected by the police department for mental instability, and Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade), a mild-mannered Brit with a fantasy of rescuing lonely housewives, Evan attempts to lead his misfit gang in search of clues. When the group uncovers the unearthly beings behind the crime, they must band together to save not only their beloved town, but also the whole world.
“The Watch” is a confusing mess of genres, delving into comedy, horror (with bloody violence and slimy monstrosities), drama, romance (of the light-hearted kind), and action/adventure (bizarrely fixating on slow-motion shootouts). At times, even when it’s just comedic, it switches between slapstick, situational, dialogue-driven, teen-oriented, and raunchy. It never knows what it wants to be, partly thanks to the shifting styles and perhaps mostly due to the current events surrounding the real life Neighborhood Watch shooting in Florida; a tragic incident and extremely unfortunate coincidence for the marketing of this movie – forcing plenty of edits and the changing of the title.
Regardless of the controversial subject matter, the unearthly direction “The Watch” chooses to go spells certain doom for the effectiveness of the humor. Like a spoof of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” coupled with a cross between “Men in Black” and “Old School,” there’s simply no home for the vast range of unrelated settings, characters, actions, and conversations (largely involving bodily fluids as if preoccupied with duplicating the verbiage of “Superbad” – which is not surprising considering scripting by Seth Rogen).
Tackling the classic scenario of a common, quiet little suburb becoming immersed in extraordinary occurrences (with a few central roles being the only ones aware of the situation), “The Watch” borrows too heavily from previously established filmic premises. What’s worse is the promising ensemble cast, which looks good on paper but results in disinterest. Stiller is once again the straight man, insistent on doing his job; Vaughn is the loud-mouthed instigator; and Hill is the kooky oddball, spouting most of the off-the-wall comments and revealing his life to be the least matured. Will Forte rounds out the group with an amusing appearance as the stereotypical, incompetent, overconfident cop. While themes of isolation, suspicion, control, reclaiming family values, and expending limitless ammo in an environment free from sincere physical consequences seep into the mundane plot, the disorganized and extraneous feel of many of the scenes causes “The Watch” to be a consistently threadbare bore.
– The Massie Twins