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

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

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