The Watch seems to have a lot going for it; it’s written by Seth Rogan, directed by Akiva Schaffer, and stars some of the funniest actors Hollywood has seen since the late eighties. With the odds in its favor, it should have been an absolute laugh riot. Unfortunately, it’s the humor itself that keeps this one from being the must-see comedy of the summer.
Evan (Ben Stiller) is the manager of Costco and a regular suburbanite from a small town in Ohio. He collects hobbies and joins clubs to fill a gap in his relationship, though he isn’t really accepted thanks to his control-freak nature. When one of his employees is killed in a shocking attack while on the clock, Evan decides it’s time to create a new group – a neighborhood watch. His call to action delivers three members: Bob (Vince Vaughn), a fast talking party guy who’s looking for a boy’s night away from his family; Franklin (Jonah Hill), a police academy reject who has something to prove to the local fuzz; and Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade), a fairly dim British fellow who thinks the watch will help him get laid. Everyone from the local cops to the neighborhood kids give these guys a hard time and refuse to take them seriously. What they don’t know is that The Watch is the only thing that stands between them and an invasion of gut eating, skin wearing creatures from outer space.
What seems like an inventive story ends up being extremely predictable. It feels as though you have seen this movie before, and don’t have a hard time figuring out where it is going. OK, what kind of humor do you expect from a movie that comes from Rogan, Schaffer, Vaughn, and Stiller? Obviously, it’s going to have a decent amount of raunchy humor. It’s what has worked for these guys in the past. I love many of their respective and collaborative films up to now. Here’s the thing: these guys aren’t getting any younger and the humor isn’t growing and evolving with them as they age. Raunchy humor can be very funny when mixed well with situational humor and the expertise of seasoned comedic actors. The Watch takes dick jokes over the top – so much so that the audience becomes bored with it and expects it around every corner. There are only so many times one can laugh at relatively similar dick jokes in the course of an hour and forty minutes. It felt as though I was supposed to watch this movie through the eyes of a failing frat boy on spring break.
The funniest parts of The Watch centered around the encounters with the aliens – which were few and far between. The situational humor during those moments are what kept the audience in the theater. What could be occupying more time in a movie about aliens than the aliens themselves? Turns out, The Watch was trying to add depth by focusing on relatively pointless relationships and events going on in our heroes’ lives. Bob has trouble keeping his teenage daughter under control and out of trouble. Evan’s marriage is examined and brought to light. These aspects really took away from the film, making it feel quite muddled and confused.
The guys do a great job filling the shoes of their respective characters, but the surprise was with Billy Crudup. He plays a creepy neighbor with a thing for buying large quantities of batteries (we’ll leave the reasons behind that to your imagination). He only has a few scenes, but he really steals the show. Stiller is good at playing an uptight control freak, Vaughn rocks at playing a slightly dense party dad, and Hill is a natural when it comes to playing crazy. But these are things we have come to expect from these guys, since they have played the same roles in several films know. I wish The Watch had moved the actors outside their usual typecast, but I guess if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That is, except for all the dick humor. That is so broke it’s on welfare.
With decent special effects and just enough situational humor to get you through it, The Watch wouldn’t be the worst pick if you were dragged to the movies with your entire Division III college football team and forced to see it. I know it’s hot outside, but The Watch simply isn’t funny, inventive, or original enough to be an excuse to spend your money for less than two hours of air conditioning. If you are still unconvinced, save your money and rent this one for a dollar in a couple months. At least then you don’t have to put up with a theater-full of raging morons laughing at the 53rd cock joke as if it were the first one they had ever heard in their entire life.
I give The Watch 2 “Dead Batteries” out of 5.