(Here at Last Road Reviews Steve Pulaski will be a guest reviewer. Enjoy)
Review written by- Steve Pulaski
Rating: ** ½ out of 4
The Watch is one of those comedies that seems to rely too heavily on its cast’s abilities and believes it can phone-in other key parts of filmmaking such as writing, tone, direction, and wit. When we laugh during the film, are we laughing because the scenarios are funny or because these are actors we’ve all seen in funny movies? Combing three of the funniest and most reliable actors working today, and one British actor who already has a loyal fanbase in America, seems like an easy recipe for success, but the recipe begins to call for too much and offer too little quickly.
The film was originally titled “Neighborhood Watch,” but was quickly changed because of looming controversy from the Trayvon Martin case. You won’t be thinking about that at all because the film offers so little resemblance to any “neighborhood watch” movie, program, or event in the last decade or so. It concerns Evan Trautwig (Stiller), a Costco manager and a loyal community activist, who has been starting clubs left and right for his humble Glenview, Ohio neighborhood. After one of his workers is murdered in the Costco, Evan creates a neighborhood watch program, which only recruits three misfits; loudmouth Bob (Vaughn), unstable Franklin (Hill), and offbeat Jamarcus (Ayoade).
As the watch works in a rather disorganized manner, they soon discover that the town is home to rather unearthly creatures and, obviously, since the police won’t believe them, they must take matters into their own hands.
Ben Stiller gives his umpteenth rendition of the good-guy trying to do right, Vince Vaughn is a loud, obnoxious fratboy, who is struggling to maintain control as a single father looking after his rebellious teen daughter, and Jonah Hill is rather off-putting as an rejected police officer, mama’s boy who continues to have trouble emoting and controlling his anger. While they are all playing stale archetypes of characters they have done in the past, they do manage to squeeze some laughs and chuckles here and there. But the king here is easily Richard Ayoade, who is sadly getting the cold shoulder with the film’s ad campaign, which is boasting “STILLER, VAUGHN, AND HILL.” Ayoade stars on a British sitcom called The IT Crowd, and has picked up followers in the U.S happily. Here, he delivers some memorable one-liners, as he sometimes effortlessly one-ups the other comedy veterans at their game.
What leaves The Watch with a pungent aftertaste is the writing, which to begin with, is not very funny, but is brought to the “decent” category because we see funny actors performing what is on the paper. The film was written by Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, and Jared Stern, and seeing as both Rogen and Goldberg were the ones responsible for making Superbad’s script so quick, witty, and hilarious, it is surprising to see The Watch flounder in the writing department. This is where the film becomes too reliant on its actors, as it neglects to give them some interesting dialog to bounce off of.
It is also apparent that the direction is obscured because of the screenplay continuously jumping into raunchy comedy, sci-fi elements, romanticism between Evan and his wife, drama between Bob and his daughter, etc. One moment, we are laughing tirelessly at R. Lee Ermey’s over-the-top cameo and the next, we are rolling our eyes when the boys are being attacked in Bob’s mancave by another life-form. Had the film been more consistent in its writing, I doubt this problem would’ve even been so noticeable.
Director Akiva Schaffer, one of the three members of The Lonely Island comedy troupe (the three make a cameo in the film) responsible for some seriously witty music videos and digital shorts on Saturday Night Live, definitely has passion for the weird and surreal, with his previous effort being the unsung cult classic Hot Rod. He simply does what he can with what he has, while The Watch scurries along in its screenplay of errors and its directions a plenty
Starring: Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, Richard Ayoade, Will Forte, and R. Lee Ermey. Directed by: Akiva Schaffer