Aliens are invading Ohio, and it’s up to the local neighborhood watch to save the day! The reason I’m being so up-front about the plot of The Watch is to pay homage to the makers of the film, who had to do the same thing with their marketing campaign. Originally titled Neighborhood Watch, trailers and commercials for this film were meant to somewhat shroud the presence of aliens so viewers would be surprised. But when the controversial Trayvon Martin case came to light, the producers immediately changed the movie’s name and marketing so everybody would know this is a comedy about aliens. Well, it’s supposed to be a comedy, I guess. But last time I checked, comedies are supposed to make you laugh.
The Watch is a sad and depressing movie. Talented comedic actors Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, and Jonah Hill are painfully unfunny here, with both Stiller and Hill seeming like they just wanted to collect their paychecks and leave. Vaughn tried to bring his trademark high-energy, fast-talking wise guy act back to life, but it was excruciatingly obvious that he is no longer the prime force he was in Wedding Crashers back in 2005. There’s nothing more depressing than seeing a performer keep trying the same shtick over and over, even though he’s way over the hump. British newcomer Richard Ayoade (pronounced eye-oh-WA-dee), who has already made a big splash in England and wrote and directed the well-received Submarine, was probably hoping his role in The Watch would net him some popularity amongst general American audiences. Sorry, Rich, better luck next time.
Stiller plays Evan, a Costco manager who has to create social groups in order to have friends. When a night guard is killed and skinned at his Costco, Evan forms a neighborhood watch to try and track down the murderer. You may think it’s the police’s job to hunt killers, but writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg paint the cops in The Watch as stubborn, unhelpful jerks. Joining Evan are Bob (Vaughn), a protective father who wants to use the Watch as a way to get away from his wife and daughter for a bit (which is kind of a contradiction); Franklin (Hill), a young high school dropout who desperately wants to be a cop but failed the written, physical, and mental exams; and Jamarcus (Ayoade), who is just kind of… there. Eventually, the four amigos discover aliens are trying to invade, and they must work quickly before the Earth is destroyed.
The comedic team of Rogen and Goldberg who wrote Superbad has been on the decline since that terrific coming-of-age story. That film balanced lowbrow humor with heartfelt maturity and tenderness. Since then, they’ve written the good but uneven Pineapple Express, the watchable but not much else The Green Hornet, and now the completely shameful The Watch. Spewing dick joke after dick joke, there is nothing witty or clever about anything any of the actors was forced to say. This childish fixation on making male genitalia the focal point of every joke (which even becomes important to the climax of the film!… no pun intended) is something you’d expect from fourth graders who just learned how to curse.
Director Akiva Schaffer, who comprises one-third of the comedy group The Lonely Island, has a difficult time trying to create scenes of substance in The Watch, due to the lack of a strong script. There’s an entire subplot involving a creepy neighbor that takes up a good deal of screen time that ends up leading absolutely nowhere. It was only featured in the film to be “funny,” and it wasn’t even that. This leads me to believe the writers knew their premise wasn’t strong enough to support 90 minutes on its own, so they had to pad it with fluff. Schaffer is forced to string scenes together that have nothing to do with one another and hope that the product is passable. The tone is never scary when the aliens are around, but there’s also no sense that you’re watching a comedy. The screen just feels full of dead air.
The Watch is easily the worst film I’ve seen in theaters this year, and it’s going to be hard to sink any lower. It makes sense that its distributors released it a week after The Dark Knight Rises, as they were probably hoping it would just make money from its key audience and then be overshadowed and forgotten because of the big Batman blockbuster. Unfortunately, I won’t soon be forgetting how awful this film was, as it was that special brand of bad that you can’t help but shake your head at for weeks after. Not even the large group of 14 year-olds in the theater around me laughed very much at this movie. If you want to laugh, save your money and just check out The Lonely Island’s YouTube channel.
My Rating: (2/10)