Movie Review: The Watch

Stars: Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, Richard Ayoade

Rated R for some strong sexual content including references, pervasive language and violent images, Running time 98 minutes, Comedy/Sci-fi

Compare to: Men in Black II (2002), Paul (2011)

The Watch reminds me of several papers I’d done from elementary school all the way to high school. I’d be given an assignment and started letting all the details flow onto the paper. I would really be getting into it, depending on the subject matter. As much as I was enjoying myself, I would eventually realize that I’d already written the required amount and I didn’t need to go any further, so the conclusion, be it a story, essay, informative, whatever, would turn everything else into a rushed mess. This is the best way I can sum up The Watch.

A “meh” idea (aliens) mixed with a fairly funny premise (neighborhood watch taking themselves too seriously) and ultimately combining to make a movie that seemed like it could have actually been really good, despite what you thought about the trailers. Too bad it wasn’t as complete a thought as some scenes led me to believe early on.

Ben Stiller plays Evan Trautwig, a man whose mission in life is to make his community the most fulfilling lifestyle a suburban family could have. Aside from the multitude of organizations and clubs he forms, Evan is also the manager of a local Costco, where the mysterious murder of his security guy has just taken place. After starting the neighborhood watch program, Evan’s watch members (Vaugh, Hill, and Ayoade) can’t seem to focus on any particular strategy, preferring to drink and play pool instead. One night after discovering an alien weapon it seems, all hell is on the verge of breaking loose as it seems aliens have slowly started to creep their way into the neighborhood, and it’s up to the neighborhood watch to stop them.

If that story description seems to do a complete 180, that’s because it’s what the movie does. Genre bending can be a greatly unique approach to story-telling but when the movie doesn’t seem to know what it is, that’s a completely different issue to tackle. One minute is dealing with an exciting stakeout, Vaughn peeing in an empty beer can, all comedy headed toward an occasionally violent guy comedy, when the next involves aliens. Even then, the story is still salvageable, with the leads random one liners by far being the best part of the film, but the scenes with the aliens involved feel just as random to the point of being out of place. It’s like eating a pizza while occasionally biting into a cookie. They don’t go together and it’s just confusing why they would intertwine in the first place. In fact, it’s worse than aliens being in an Indiana Jones movie.

As stated, the one liners are enjoyable. I find it funny that the least expensive parts of the film were just Stiller and co. playing around. Vaughn and Stiller seem to be the intended stars but Hill and Ayoade’s backseat, more subtle style of comedy is what steals the show. Until the alien plot is brought in, which steals everything good the movie could have been and just helps to kill it. Hill’s lines are nothing if not ridiculous. Yet it’s that same ridiculousness that keeps the film from being overtly terrible. Don’t get me wrong, it is bad, but Hill relaxing in a massage chair and quietly murmuring “I feel like… a thousand baby wizards are massaging me with their baby wands…” is just hard to not laugh at. Ayoade is just so out of place as the only Brit in the cast, his proper ways being a strange contrast to the other cast members more expressive mannerisms, even when compared to Hill, who isn’t immune to the intermittent yell.

I imagine it being a difficult place to be put in when your film deals with mostly with neighborhood watch taking their positions too seriously, only to have the Trayvon Martin case pop up last February. It’s as though before a meteor were announced to hit the earth, Armageddon and Deep Impact trailers were introduced. Not an easy situation. Yet if the film really were to supposedly have even originally involved aliens, this is not a good job. The alien scenes/storyline seems to be an afterthought, or a byproduct that becomes embraced so as not to be confused with the Trayvon shooting. So you always feel like you’re watching two movies that have been spliced together.

The cast seems to have enough fun together which makes everything a little easier to watch. I didn’t feel as annoyed at the cast for having more fun than me as much as I did left out. I want to laugh too, guys. That’s My Boy was awful, and frustratingly so, while The Watch just seems like they attempted a decent comedy, but only at random intervals rather than in its entirety. I didn’t hate it, it’s just not really funny. Just skip it, watch The Dark Knight Rises again.

Grade: C-

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