Upon seeing the trailers for The Watch, I was overly optimistic and intrigued. The rapid-fire quips and raunchy humor gave me hope towards a laugh-filled movie experience. After seeing the movie, I ad to dial down that optimism considerably and settle for being moderately entertained.
Ben Stiller plays Evan Trautwig, a community do-gooder who works as a manager at the ubiquitous Costco wholesale retail store (more on this later) in the small suburb of Glenview, Ohio. One day, Evan rolls into work to find that the night watchman, also his fair-weather friend, was brutally murdered, having been stripped of his skin. Evan, known extensively for his local activism, takes it upon himself to form a community watch group to protect the neighborhood and avenge his friend’s death. Answering the call is the garrulous Bob (Vince Vaughn), the disturbed police force reject Franklin (Jonah Hill) and the clueless yet affable Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade). Together, the foursome investigate local disturbances until they happen upon some alien technology and eventually, an alien (who looks like a cross between Ridley Scott’s Alien and Martian Manhunter’s true form). The plot is revealed that the aliens have been masquerading as humans for the past six months and plan to address our race in the most malevolent of manners. Despite being in over their heads, it is up to the Neighborhood Watch of Glenview to save the human race from imminent distinction.
The Watch has an ambitious premise and manages to follow through in some respects with regards to the science fiction element. The pace for most of the film, however, is sluggish in reaching these points, bogged down specifically by subplots involving Evan and his wife’s yearning to have a child. There are also a number of disbelief suspension moments that were just begging for some attention that would have made the plot a bit more palatable. The ending is a disappointment as well in its abruptness. Everything was all tied up and finished too neatly for my tastes.
The cast, in my opinion, is The Watch’s biggest strength as Stiller, Vaughn, Hill, and Ayoade all play off each other quite well. You get the sense that director Akiva Schaffer was overly generous in letting the actors riff and improvise lines for what should make for a fun, unrated version of the DVD. Vince Vaughn, in particular, always brings such glee and unfettered glibness to these kind of roles that I cannot help but go along for the ride. Ayoade, still relatively unknown to most US fans, will delight his followers from such shows as The IT Crowd with his precociously nerdy aura. Jonah Hill stretches a bit comedically as well, taking a page from frequent collaborator Seth Rogen’s mildly psychotic turn as a rejected cop from Observe & Report to immerse himself in the role of Franklin. There are also a few cameos and wonderfully absurd performance by Will Forte as cop who attempts to cut down the watch.
I would also be remiss if I did not mention the overbearing amount of product placement in The Watch. There are a slew of instances where products are prominently featured, ranging from Budweiser to Magnum condoms. It happens so frequently that I almost wonder if it was intentional for comedy purposes. Costco is such a huge part of the film that it must have gotten its SAG card afterward. Seriously, I haven’t seen product placement this bad in a movie since Thor got Kashi’d.
Overall, The Watch has a solid comedic cast and is good for some raunchy laughs. There was more potential to met here but from what was given, its definitely worth a rental. Two and a half Kitten Hands out of 5.
– Shawn Marek (@AngryHeroShawn) is suddenly craving some Kirkland Signature Pub Mix.