Moment of truth: I’m somewhat stumped on how to accurately describe The Watch, let alone open this review. The lead actors involved should indicate that this is a comedy, which is true. Throw Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill and Richard Ayoade into a film, and chances are you’ll find at least something funny. The Watch is a bit of a hybrid, though, that combines comedy with an increasing amount of science fiction as it goes through its runtime.
After the brutal murder of the night watchman at his Costco (and yes, the store is key to the plot), manager Evan (Stiller) decides to form a neighborhood watch to try and solve the murder, as well as prevent any other murders. Joining Evan: partying father Bob (Vaughn), borderline-psychotic Franklin (Hill), and amiable Jamarcus (Ayoade). Eventually, the team discovers an alien presence that threatens their community.
Let’s get this out of the way – yes, the premise is stupid. While the actors involved all seem game, and do provide a fair amount of laughs, many of the jokes end up going on far longer than what should be necessary. More annoying is the film’s attempt at adding in issues about masculinity, perceived or otherwise, to both Stiller and Vaughn’s characters. It’s one of several ways the film tries to inject humor that doesn’t gel into the plot.
Making matters worse for The Watch are a pair of real-life situations filmmakers could not have anticipated. The first, the Trayvon Martin shooting earlier this year, makes scenes involving gun play seem a bit callous, particularly the prolonged scene where Evan and Bob shoot into an already dead alien. This incident already created a change in the film’s title, originally Neighborhood Watch. The second, the shootings in Aurora that occurred a week before this film’s release, make Franklin seem eerily similar to shooter James Holmes. Franklin is certainly a bit creepy already, but in the current theater-going climate, one can’t help but think just how inappropriate the character now appears.