Title: The Watch
Directed By: Akiva Schaffer
Starring: Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, Richard Ayoade, Rosemarie DeWitt, Billy Crudup, Doug Jones, Nicholas Braun, Erin Moriarty, Joe Nunez, Will Forte
Original plots don’t even seem to do the trick anymore. Whether the movie’s about an alien invasion, a hotel robbery, babysitting bad kids or a disastrous couples retreat, we wind up with a tiresome tone and jokes that feel awfully familiar. Lucky for Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill, their standard is slightly elevated by a stellar somewhat new find, Richard Ayoade.
Evan (Stiller) loves starting up local clubs. In fact, he doesn’t really have many friends, only the folks that join his groups and his employees at Costco. When his late night security guard is killed at the store, Evan takes it upon himself to track down his murderer by starting a neighborhood watch. When the first neighborhood watch meeting arrives, Evan is ready to go with pamphlets and a map of the town, but his only three members, Bob (Vince Vaughn) the intense yet loving father, Franklin (Jonah Hill) the police officer wannabe and the seemingly normal Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade) who enjoys a certain naughty fantasy would much rather party at Bob’s than take the neighborhood watch seriously with Evan.
However, when the guys come across some mysterious green goo that leads them to an out-of-this-world silver ball with the power to blow cows away, the fact that aliens have invaded their quaint little town of Glenview is undeniable. When the cops refuse to believe that the town is under attack, Evan, Bob, Franklin and Jamarcus have no choice but to man up, guzzle some beers and protect Glenview from the aliens themselves.
The movie stars Stiller, Vaughn and Hill; you’ve got to know what you’re in for to a point. “The Watch” is jam packed with the typical comedic fair you’d expect from the trio, but there are a few original hidden gems. The question is, can you suffer through Vaughn’s out of control ranting and raving, and Stiller’s lame innocence to still enjoy the elements that could be considered rather fresh.
The nut of the story is pretty smart – a neighborhood watch that winds up fighting aliens rather than out-of-line citizens. The trouble is, the steps taken to get there are nothing short of absurd. Joe Nunez enjoys a particularly amusing sequence as Antonio Guzman, the security guard that bites it in the first act. From there, you’re either going to laugh at the fact that Will Forte’s Sgt. Bressman is completely ignoring obvious clues while taunting Evan or you’re taking the literalist route and won’t stand for it. If you suspect you’ll be part of the latter, abandon ship immediately because “The Watch” is all about the comedy and will forsake all rationality in exchange for a laugh.
As someone who falls in between the two groups, “The Watch” wasn’t really all that bad. Sure, the large majority of it makes no sense and a handful of the jokes fall flat, but the film is well paced, boasts some solid action sequences and an alien that’s creepier than most dark sci-fi films. There’s even a scene when one poor soul is completely splattered all over a door and for a comedy, it’s pretty grotesque.
As for the humor, Vaughn is almost entirely too much. Bob doesn’t say anything; he yells it and while that gets irritating fast, Vaughn makes a major comeback towards the end of the film when he actually gives the movie a twinge of an emotional side. Minus a few funny jokes, Stiller is pretty lackluster and generally overshadowed by his far more colorful co-stars. Hill’s Franklin has no layers whatsoever, but Hill’s comedic timing makes the character worthwhile. Overall, Vaughn, Stiller and Hill are good enough, but Ayoade is just above and beyond. His intonation, comedic timing and arc are all spot on, making moments when he’s on screen some of the film’s best.
Rosemarie DeWitt is entirely wasted as Evan’s wife Abby, but Nicholas Braun manages to make an impact in a rather small role, that of the guy romancing Bob’s daughter. As far as supporting characters go, Billy Crudup is the big winner as Evan’s incredibly odd new neighbor. As far as the whole of the story goes, the character has little impact, but Crudup has absolutely no trouble playing excessively handsome yet eerie, making for one of the films more amusing gags.
“The Watch” is more like playtime for a bunch of comedians than a solid film. The large majority of scenes feel segmented, almost like individual sketches, but the pace is swift enough that the movie still flows rather well. If the comedic styling of Stiller, Vaughn and Hill isn’t your thing, “The Watch” is an absolute pass, but for those looking for a harmless 102 minutes of amusing lunacy, the movie is entertaining enough.