I’m a big fan of stupid comedies or of having a laugh at the expense of a major flop, but every now and then I see a movie so bad and so lazily made that I can’t even laugh despite my better judgment. This summer, that movie is The Watch. The Watch opens with the murder of a security guard at a Costco managed by fastidious Evan (Ben Stiller), who is also president of numerous clubs and committees around his suburb. Devastated over the guard’s murder, Evan forms a neighborhood watch to find the killer and protect the community from further violence. He is joined by Bob (Vince Vaughn)-a devoted father and aged frat boy, Franklin (Jonah Hill)-a police academy reject, and Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade)-a British man new to town. Quickly power struggles arise as no one takes the watch (or anything) as seriously as Evan does. Bob tries to turn the duties into man’s night, starting as much trouble as he stops. Just as the situation starts to completely fall apart, the foursome discovers that there are aliens in town, stealing the skin from people, such as the murdered guard, and living in the suburb undetected. It’s up to the band of bros to save the town.
The plot of the movie could have been kind of fun in a stupid, but enjoyable way. The execution, however, undercuts any possibility for success by relying heavily on gross-out, obscene humor and hackneyed stock characters. Initially the conflict between Bob and Evan is moderately funny as it represents a common problem in groups when the super uptight leader comes up against the person who just wants to have fun. Quickly, though, the dynamic just becomes annoying and the film falls back on R-rated versions of schoolyard potty humor. To make matters worse, the plot deteriorates completely to a poor spoof of the scifi genre as the neighborhood watch tries to fight off the aliens.
Not even good comedians can redeem a script this bad, so Stiller, Vaughn, and Hill end up as caricatures of the characters they usually play. Stiller’s highly organized and neighborly Evan starts the film with a monologue that felt lifted from uburban satires. Had the film stayed on that level it could have been enjoyable, but Evan, like the script, quickly slides into stupidity. Bob is most compelling when fighting with his daughter and Vince Vaughn brings his trademark delivery of tender advice mixed with tough guy “broishness.” Jonah Hill, recently an Academy Award nominee, is dead weight. His character’s lines are absurd beyond the realm of humorous and Hill really had nothing to work with. Jamarcus was the most poorly developed character of the bunch and as such, British comedian Richard Ayoade contributes little above amusing line delivery. Rosemarie DeWitt plays Evan’s wife Abby, the only adult female character of note, and she is sidelined for the majority of the film. Even other gross-out comedies such as Knocked Up and Bridesmaids usually involve some level of character growth, however slight, but in The Watch the characters never really go anywhere emotionally. Sure, Bob and his daughter come to terms with each other and Evan re-bonds with his wife, but the journey is made without any real internalization of anything. It’s totally plot-driven and shallow.
The Watch is easily the worst movie I have seen in a long time. I wanted to walk out, but was obligated to stay so I could honestly write this review. Therefore, only for a fun, if predictable soundtrack, and a fight scene predicated on bad puns, I rate The Watch 1/5 stars.
The Watch was written by Jared Stern, Seth Rogen, and Evan Goldberg and directed by Akiva Schaffer. It runs 102 minutes and is rated R for some strong sexual content including references, pervasive language and violent images.
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