At the Movies: ‘The Watch’ is a comedy that misses its mark

‘The Watch’ stars, from left, British actor Richard Ayoade, Vince Vaughn, Ben Stiller and Jonah Hill.

I tend to believe The Watch would have quickly floated in and out of theaters with little notice if its name hadn’t been changed from Neighborhood Watch in May. That’s because the studio execs at 20th Century Fox didn’t want moviegoers to associate it with the headline-grabbing Trayvon Martin case. That name change (along with pulling some promotional materials from theaters) helped give this movie some press it otherwise would not have had.
The commercials make it seem like The Watch is a modern day Ghostbusters. Well, it’s not even close. The similarities are there with a group of guys joining together to defend against an alien invasion. Let’s just say, if there’s something strange in the neighborhood, I’m think it’s safe to assume I’m not gonna call the guys from The Watch.
Ben Stiller is Evan, the manager at Costco, who decides to start a neighborhood watch group after the murder of his overnight security guard. Side note: I hope Costco coughed up a lot of money for as many times as the company was featured or mentioned. I would have much rather preferred that Evan worked at a generic warehouse store rather than seeing 20 exterior Costco shots (I didn’t count, but it certainly seemed like that many). And since I just mentioned them three times, where’s my check?
Evan is able to recruit bored married guy Bob (Vince Vaughn), police officer reject Franklin (Jonah Hill) and new guy in town Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade) to join his squad of crime chasers. Obviously, they initially assume the culprit is human, but soon learn their suburban Ohio town is inhabited by aliens that plan to take over the world.
I grew quite annoyed with Vaughn’s incessant sex jokes (in particular his jokes about a certain male body part). That loud, raunchy guy act may have seemed new and funny in Wedding Crashers, but seven years later, it’s just tired.
Stiller seemed kind of bored with it all, and, as the character that supposedly has the strongest moral fiber, he makes some fairly boneheaded decisions.
Hill’s had some recent successes with movies like Moneyball and 21 Jump Street, but he also recently missed the mark with The Sitter, and I expect The Watch to similarly be one of his forgotten flicks.
It’s British actor Ayoade (who many Americans may not be familiar with) that gets most of the laughs. I’d recommend checking out Ayoade in the British show, The IT Crowd, where he plays a socially awkward computer nerd. He’s hilarious in that.
Surprisingly, two of the movie’s writers, Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg, brought audiences the much funnier and more memorable Superbad and Pineapple Express. There’s a third credited writer (Jared Stern), but I’m not quite sure we’ll be seeing any more flicks from this writing trio, as Stern’s IMDB profile doesn’t show any upcoming releases.
Ultimately, The Watch is paralyzed by its lazy storytelling, overuse of unfunny sex jokes that have nothing to do with the plot and three out of four actors using their same shtick to play basically the same roles we’ve seen time and time again.
Movie Grade: D