Where did it go wrong? Well, when it comes to the summer’s latest comedy, “The Watch,” there are numerous answers. The real question is where to begin. Perhaps I should start by complaining about the incredibly low-brow, toilet humor that pollutes the film. Or, maybe by talking about the sloppy, lackluster direction and uninspired script. Maybe I could talk about how the movie is possibly the world’s longest and worst Costco advertisement.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. “The Watch” is director Akiva Schaffer’s latest outing about a small town in Ohio that is “rocked” by the murder of a security guard at the local Costco. Store manager Evan (Ben Stiller) is the one who believes there has been a murder. In order to prevent further murders and to find the person who killed his friend, Evan forms the “Neighborhood Watch.” He got the idea that brings together essentially every trope necessary for a group comedy. There’s Bob (Vince Vaughn), who is the everyday regular Joe, Franklin (Jonah Hill), who is the unpredictable loser, and Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade), who is the likable dork.
Together, the group sets out to stop crime. However, all is not as it seems and the guys find that life as they know it may change when their town is threatened by an alien invasion. Essentially it’s an American version of the 2011 film “Attack the Block,” with a well-known cast.
The difference is that unlike “The Watch, “Attack the Block” is actually funny.
Don’t get me wrong, parts of the film are quite hilarious. But those parts are few and very far between. While some of the film’s jokes land on target, most of them land with an awkward thud and much potential for improvement. With a cast of comedy all-stars, it’s not hard to expect the type of uproarious comedy found in some of the star’s previous films like “Dodgeball’ or “Superbad.” However, laughs like that are nowhere to be had over the course of the film’s disjointed 101 minute run time. In fact, I would venture to say that the film is a low point for the careers of nearly everybody involved, especially writers Seth Rogen and Even Goldberg.
With such talented writers at the helm, it’s hard not to look at the film as a missed opportunity for comedic magic. Especially since most of the humor sounds like jokes made in an eighth grade locker room. It’s an incredibly low-brow affair full of unfunny jokes that quite frankly made me feel embarrassed for Costco, due essentially to the fact that it is practically the film’s main setting.
Unfortunately, the film’s performances are just as flat as the writing on most occasions. Besides his recent turn in “Madagascar 3,” Stiller plays the same role he has in practically all of his films since
“Night at the Museum.” He plays the straight man amongst the jokesters. It’s getting incredibly stale, and it may just be time for Ben to take a break.
Another incredibly dull performance here belongs to Vince Vaughn. Almost everything Vaughn’s character says was improvised during filming, and practically none of it is funny. So much so, that it is almost painful to watch.
Hill garners laughs several times during the film, but for most of the movie I found myself worried about the wellbeing of the characters around him, a fact that really says something given how unlikeable most of the film’s characters are. The two exceptions to this are Ayoade and SNL veteran Will Forte. Ayoade brings the perfect amount of his sarcastic British humor to the table and provides some of the film’s best laughs. Forte plays one of the town’s bumbling police officers, a man who is truly terrible at his job, and doesn’t seem to care.
At the end of the day, if you find yourself looking for a solid comedy, skip “The Watch” and check out “Ted,” it’s still in theaters. Otherwise you may find yourself looking at your watch more than the screen itself, counting down the minutes until the credits roll.
Two stars out of five.