Directed by Akiva Schaffer
Written by Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg
Starring Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, Richard Ayoade, Rosemarie DeWitt
20th Century Fox
Rated R | 98 Minutes
Release Date: July 27, 2012
Written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg and directed by Akiva Schaffer (Hot Rod), The Watch is a quasi-comedic, exceedingly raunchy remix of Ghostbusters, Men in Black, and Joe Cornish’s Attack the Block.
In the small town of Glenview, Ohio, CostCo Manager Evan Trautwig (Ben Stiller) forms a neighborhood watch after a co-worker is violently murdered. Wearing a “No More Murders” t-shirt, Trautwig recruits Bob Finnerty (Vince Vaughn), an over-protective father who uses the watch as an excuse to spy on his teenage daughter’s dating life.
Joining them are Franklin (Jonah Hill), a high school dropout with emotional issues who signs up after being rejected by the police department, and Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade), an awkward, sex-crazed young man looking to live out an Asian housewife fantasy.
The neighborhood watch patrols the suburbs of Ohio and keeps the streets safe from rambunctious skateboarding teenagers while attempting to crack the case of the CostCo killer. As you’ve no doubt seen (ad nauseam) from the trailers, the culprit is a nasty extraterrestrial with a knack for skinning its victims (yes, like the Predator). Now, with their powers combined, the watch must stop this otherworldly foe before it tears the suburbs limb-from-limb.
It’s as if Schaffer directed Stiller to be the least funny he’s ever been – “Hey Ben, if you could do your best Adam Sandler impersonation on this next take, that’d be great.” Stiller has always been at his best when portraying an absolutely ludicrous character, but here as a small-town CostCo manager he’s really just the straight man to three comedic caricatures. 2012 Vince Vaughn manages to rattle off a few funny lines here and there while doing his best impersonation of 2005 Vince Vaughn, with a character the feels like a mix of Old School, DodgeBall, and Wedding Crashers.
Likewise, Schaffer’s only direction to Jonah Hill must have been, “Keep it up, you’re doing great!” as the 21 Jump Street and Superbad star continues his scream-whisper “I was trying to be a big man” routine that loses appeal with every outing. Don’t get me wrong, I like the guy – he’s funny as Hell – but the quality of his schtick diminishes after you’ve seen it play out a hundred times. I’d rather see the Jonah Hill from Cyrus or Moneyball show up again.
Richard Ayoade is a refreshing addition to the quartet and sticks out like a sore thumb. He’s British – I mean, we’re talking Glenview, Ohio here – you think British people actively decide to re-locate to Ohio? To American audiences, Ayoade will be a quirky newcomer – but to those familiar with The Mighty Boosh and The IT Crowd, Ayoade might as well be reprising his role as Maurice Moss – not that it’s necessarily a bad thing, but it should be noted that the four main characters are all incredibly one-dimensional and really only work as a foursome.
The film’s supporting characters, Evan’s wife Abby (Rosemarie DeWitt), Sergeant Bressman (Will Forte), and a surprise appearance by Billy Crudup (Almost Famous) as a creepy neighbor, make The Watch worth… well, watching. Forte plays your typical local law enforcement asshole who gives out pointless tickets and takes every opportunity to showcase his complete ignorance of all things police-related. DeWitt is severely underused as Stiller’s on-screen wife – an extremely talented actress whose further involvement could have helped the film considerably. Billy Crudup’s role is nothing more than an exaggerated cameo, but every time he shows up he’s absolutely hilarious and threatens to steal the entire film away from Stiller.
Overall, if you’ve managed to sit through underwhelming comedies like The Sitter, Tower Heist and The Dilemma, you might find The Watch to be chuckle-worthy, just don’t go in expecting much and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. If anything, I’m amazed at how many masturbation jokes are crammed into this 98-minute movie. Outside of some extraterrestrial violence and explicit language, the film earns its R rating with lots of weird, creepy sex stuff – there’s even a circle jerk at one point (you’ve been warned).
Finally, the product placement in The Watch is out of control. This film is completely embedded with not-so-subtle marketing. Hell, most of the movie takes place in CostCo and features selective, slow-motion shots of Tide and Coca-Cola products. I’m surprised the skin-stealing extraterrestrials of The Watch weren’t sponsored, slapped up with stickers and logos like a NASCAR driver’s jumpsuit.
With the exception of 21 Jump Street and Ted – 2012 has been a pretty disappointing year for comedies. The Watch certainly isn’t as disastrous as The Three Stooges or other cringe-worthy efforts like American Reunion or That’s My Boy, but it fails to deliver anything new or noteworthy to the table. The sum of The Watch is not greater than its parts – I feel like everyone involved with this film deserves a pat on a back and a reassuring, “C’mon man, you’re better than that.” Better luck next time, guys.
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