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I have an idea. Let’s take three super-famous actors, put them on the same set, give them a shitty script with a ton of filler and a few punch lines, and throw in some aliens just for kicks. Oh wait, the writers, directors and producers of The Watch already did that. And it didn’t work out too well. I’m not one to bash the Hollywood formula—I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes it works. But in order to be even mildly successful, The Watch needed a little more finesse and a lot more punch. Especially given the premise. And especially when that premise involves aliens.
Ben Stiller plays Evan, an overzealous do-gooder with a knack for starting community clubs and task forces. He also happens to be the manager of the local Costco—a job he takes very seriously. After his employee Antonio Guzman (Joe Nunez) is mysteriously killed on the night shift, Evan decides to form The Neighborhood Watch, a group of concerned citizens whose mission is to compensate for the local cops. At least that’s what Evan is hoping for. Instead, he gets Bob (Vince Vaughn), a Budweiser-drinking dad whose main concern is his daughter’s inappropriate Facebook page. Then there’s Franklin (Jonah Hill), a wannabe cop who has managed to fail the written, physical and mental law enforcement exams and still lives at home with his mom. And lastly, there’s wildcard Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade), a random Brit who completes Evan’s dream of having a racially diverse group of friends.
I expected more from writer, Superbad’s Seth Rogen, and director Akiva Schaffer, known for a long run directing Saturday Night Live. Mostly, the film is a bunch of dudes doing dude things. They drink beer in Bob’s man cave. They have run-ins with the local cops. They spy on suspicious neighbors, and every once in a while they encounter aliens. It’s all just overly absurd, and not in the hyperbolic, excessively-ridiculous-to-make-a-larger-statement kind of way. I don’t think the film is even smart enough for that. Take out the science fiction component and trim down on the strange phallic references and I might re-consider. If a film can’t make me laugh, then it better be able to take itself seriously in some way, shape or form. And The Watch definitely doesn’t do that.
So, if you’re looking for the generic sub-par film with a watered down plot line and senseless humor, this is one of Hollywood cinema’s usual suspects. And it’s definitely not on my “watch” list.