Friday, September 14, 2012

New Release Review: The Watch

I'm not really sure what The Watch was trying to be. It is buddy comedy/alien invasion mash-up. On one level it is a slim character study of some everyday suburban guys trying to overcome personal issues who form a Neighborhood Watch in their attempts to catch the killer of a Costco security guard, and while they're at it, deal with their anxieties. On another level it is a civilians vs. extraterrestrials invasion flick in the vein of last year's British hit, Attack the Block. But Attack the Block has more inventive alien creatures and cost significantly less, not to mention being much tighter, smarter, funnier, grittier and tenser than this widely-panned near-disaster from writers Jared Stern, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, and director Akiva Schaffer.

The Watch is set in the small suburban town of Glenview, Ohio. When the night security guard of Evan Trautwig's (Ben Stiller, another uptight common man role) local Costco store is found murdered, the community-active senior manager decides to investigate further than their disinterested chief of police, Sergeant Bressman (Will Forte), and try and bring the perpetrator to justice. To do this he proposes the forming of a Neighborhood Watch and manages to recruit some of the locals; Bob (Vince Vaughn, loud, obnoxious and unbelievably unfunny), a construction worker struggling with his relationship with his teenage daughter, Franklin (Jonah Hill, as crude as ever), a disturbed high-school dropout with dreams of being in the police force, and Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade, replicating a boring version of his character Moss from The IT Crowd), an awkward British recent-divorcee.

While Evan is set on the task at hand, the others aren't so serious. Bob, always with a beer at the ready, convinces the gang to hang out at his place. Bob, over protective of his daughter and concerned about her boyfriend, and Evan, secretly sterile and anxious about his wife's (Rosemarie DeWitt) desire to have a baby, begin to bond and share their anxieties. While patroling they discover a large metallic (and incredibly destructive) orb object that they presume to be of alien origin. As more townsfolk go missing, the Watch learns that aliens have infiltrated the town. They believe that they are stealing their victim's skin and disguising themselves as human civilians. With no one else aware of the danger present in the town, it is up to this group of self-assigned heroes to save the day.

For all of these actors, it is the same old shtick. Richard Ayoade creates more laughs out of nothing than his American counterparts, but it does feel like a replication of Moss. He fit in far more awkwardly than I expected and having all these comedic veterans on screen, it becomes a case of "whose turn is it next?" Everyone is given their opportunity to shine, but this translates to inconsistent bursts of fun. Surprisingly, Stifler and Vaughn are more effective in the film's dramatic moments.

One of many problems (in-your-face product placement and a horrendous photo montage to name just two) is the overabundance of penis jokes. It is ridiculous. Some are funny, but most are not. To name a few: Ayoade's character joins the Watch out of a fantasy of having his genitals licked by an Asian woman, Vaughn's character urinates into a beer can during a stake-out, the purchase of extra large condoms from a gigantic display in the middle of Stifler's Costco leads to a running joke, and it is discovered that the only way to kill the aliens is to shoot them where there penis would normally be. When all else fails, bust out a joke about penises.

Some bizarre subplots involving Bressman's obsession with sabotaging the Watch, believing Evan is the man responsible for his employee's death, and Evan's 'creepy neighbour' (Billy Crudup), go nowhere. There are also references to sci-fi classics Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Thing, but these are so in-passing that there is no commentary given and the film feels like a blatant rip off. It is ultimately concerned with these character's personal lives, and while this should have given the premise more depth, it ends up shooting the story wayward and divulging into dull dramatics.

Throwing these comedic veterans together should have resulted in some clever delivery and hilarious situations, and the film achieves some success courtesy of the cast. But this unfocused, uneven and offensively obnoxious comedy sacrifices witty laughs, satire and any sort of engaging sci-fi action for repetitive gross-out gags. This soon tires and you start to feel pretty bad for these actors who you know can do so much better.

My Rating: ★★ (C-)

If you enjoyed this film or you would like to see more of Ben Stiller then you can always watch movies online with great services such as Netflix, LOVEFiLM and Now TV. Each have a huge range of movies available so make sure you try out the free trials!


  1. Good summary Andrew, I basically agree with everything you've said. The cast makes it somewhat bare-able/likeable.

  2. Truthfully, I've never found any of these "comedians" all that funny, so this film was always going to be a low-rent watch at best for me... And this review proves my initial misgivings were correct. I'm not watching this turd.