“Another film marred by its incessant trailers” is the best way to describe The Watch. If you’ve seen any of the countless previews for this film about 90% of the jokes are already spoiled. The rest of the film is purely an excuse for the cast to curse and improvise past what’s funny or necessary. Its plot is thankless, borrowing heavily from the 1980s film The Burbs (which I don’t particularly care for to begin with) and the cast itself seem to be waiting for anyone to make a joke. The Watch is a Saturday television movie only and not worth seeing in a theater.
In an attempt to gain more friends suburban nice guy Evan (Ben Stiller) decides to start a Neighborhood Watch program. The three who join include Franklin (Jonah Hill) who can’t make the police force, Bob (Vince Vaughn), and newcomer Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade). When aliens start to invade the neighborhood the group must band together to protect their families, neighbors, and the world.
If the film was held together by a better script, and wasn’t so determined to make the R-rating count, The Watch could have been a frothy comedy about suburban life. There’s something there in the story of a 40something trying to find friends in this day and age. Evan is constantly starting up clubs to make friends and had the film taken itself seriously you could see a drama/comedy about finding friends over forty but then that would make this a better movie. There is camaraderie between Vaughn, Stiller, and Hill making their scenes appear natural because they are close. This is to the film’s detriment in many scenes but it’s always nice to see a group of actors comfortable enough to riff off each other and know where the others are going. The alien effects are also far better than expected and not reliant on CGI but practical effects and the stellar work of Doug Jones. For a film that’s as silly as this is I was shocked that the quick and easy CGI route wasn’t used so good on the crew for going back to practical.
In terms of the acting the only highlight, and this is a geek thing than anything, is Richard Ayoade as Jamarcus. I’m a huge fan of the BBC series IT Crowd and was so happy to see Ayoade get his big-screen break. The audience I was with was painfully aware of his story arc but having loved IT Crowd I didn’t see it coming because Ayoade has perfected that hilariously awkward character. I could easily have watched Ayoade in a better comedy but he’s the only reason to go see this. As for the others, either they weren’t interested in the script or they’ve all lost their humor which is strange. Having just come off 21 Jump Street Hill is trying to recreate that character but instead turns the character into a psycho. His gun-toting Franklin becomes frightening at certain points and Hill isn’t able to play an outright jerk without coming off as fake. Vaughn’s shtick is already tired and here he just plays the same cocky character from five movies again. The weakest link has to be Stiller who is the leader of this film and apparent straight man. The problem is when everyone else is trying to derive humor from cursing and trying to have fun Stiller looks bored. It’s blatantly apparent to see in his acting movies he enjoys doing and it’s obvious here that he’s not interested in this film at all. The other actors look to him for help in certain scenes and he’s not giving anything back. If this was a paycheck movie Stiller definitely proves it and just looks angered throughout the whole thing.
To be blunt: The Watch isn’t funny. I’m a fan of crass comedies but there has to be a plot and reason to be crass or else a film is just 90 minutes of being giggling over saying naughty words. The Watch falls firmly into this category which I should have known considering its director Akiva Shaffer is a Lonely Island member. This movie felt incredibly reminiscent of another Lonely Island directed film: McGruber. The characters put the f-word into nearly every sentence and it becomes numbing by the end. There’s also a bad habit in this film to rely on improvisation leaving me to wonder where the script, apparently penned partially by Seth Rogen, went. Scenes in Vince Vaughn’s house and heart-to-hearts all start out well but the camera appears to be left on them and the actors don’t know when to stop. A particular scene involving Evan and Bob talking about infertility devolves into Bob asking about masturbation turning a seemingly heartfelt scene into a crass one-liner. This happens several times over the movie as if the director is afraid audiences will consider this film sweet and loveable, oops got to put in the f-word to stop that.
The Watch isn’t fun, funny, or memorable. If you’re a fan of wanton f-bombs and a film completely devoted to be stupid then this is for you. The acting is bland with one or two good scenes from Ayoade or Billy Crudup in a bizarre cameo, but the actors don’t know what to do and the weak script doesn’t help. If you’re dying to see this I’d wait for DVD or television.