Ben Stiller is a comic actor who has made some impressive comedy films, which include There’s Something about Mary, Tropic Thunder and Night at the Museum… he’s also made some less than impressive comedy films, such as Along Came Polly, Tower Heist and Little Fockers. His latest, for better or worse, is The Watch.
Like the above paragraphs, this movie is a mixed bag of both good and bad bits. It stars Ben Stiller as Evan, a small town guy in Ohio who loves his small town life and small town values. As the film opens, we find that he runs the local Costco, helms the running club, and works as a member of the town council. One night, an employee of Costco is brutally murdered inside the store. Evan decides to form a neighborhood watch. He gets three recruits – Bob (Vince Vaughn), Franklin (Jonah Hill) and Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade). The men begin to bond while they patrol the area. As they are on the lookout for a killer, they are also on the lookout for lonely housewives. It seems that each of these men are also looking for companionship, be it romance or bro-mance.
As they search out misdeeds from the citizenry, they also come across a local inept cop (Will Forte) who thinks that Evan has something to do with the Costco murder. The film goes off the sci-fi deep end as we find that the murder at the discount store is just the first salvo of an alien invasion. The guys must find the inner strength to fight off the horde as they discover the truth.
This movie tries to go from horror to comedy without much success. If director Akiva Schaffer would have done it Abbott and Costello style, with a muted-down terror, it might have worked. The problem is that the splatter scenes juxtaposed with slapstick makes for a very disjointed final product. Toning down the hemoglobin would have helped the comedy.
Ben Stiller seems to be walking through this role. As a guy who generates his own products, those in which he is just an actor seem to suffer from his boredom. The reading lacks any kind of spark. There are a few moments where he delivers a comedy punch, but they are all in the trailer. The film is short on laughs and scrapes along at 90 minutes.
Of the three lesser male roles only Richard Ayoade seems to rise above the material. His “Jamarcus” has this wide-eyed enthusiasm that draws one into the scene. He is a wisp of fresh air in this mostly stale cinematic bread.
Vince Vaughn seems to be playing his regular Wedding Crashers/Old School character that we have seen so many times before. He gets more laughs than his co-stars just from the sheer will of his magnetism. The scenes where he protects his teen daughter are the only true moments in the work.
Jonah Hill almost appears to be coming from another movie. His disjointed reading of the lines come off more as creepy than funny. It is a giant misfire in his young career.
With everything that happened in Florida with the neighborhood watch, this film feels ‘too soon’ from tragedy. It is neither the best work from any of the principle actors nor their worst work. It’s just another summertime diversion to generate box office receipts. To put it simply, The Watch is just not that watch-able.
A note from the editor: I posted Gary’s review as I didn’t have time to write my own, but just a quick additional take, I found the film to be quite funny and entertaining on a dumbed down popcorn flick level. Perhaps my biggest complaint was the lackluster ending, which seemed lazy and packed no punch. That said, I can honestly say the rest of film had me chuckling pretty consistently. It is without a doubt a raunchy adult comedy, not kid fare at all, but if you’re in the mood for that sort of thing you could do a lot worse. So while I can’t give it a glowing recommendation, I’d say it’s a least fun to sit through. This is one of the reasons I like having different writers for review, as individual opinions are almost always varied. - Mark Walters