Turn off the Lights

The Watch Review

This review is sponsored by Costco, where you can buy anything you want cheaply and in bulk!1

In director Akiva Schaffer’s The Watch, we also learn that Costco is the place to be if you’re trying to fend off an alien invasion. It can supply you with everything you’d ever need to keep vicious extra-terrestrials at bay… and of course, Costco is the perfect place for a wildly irresponsible neighborhood watch group to gather.

Costco (Did I mention the company’s incredibly low prices?) is in this review so prevalently because of the absurd amount of product placement. It’s actually the funniest thing in this total stinker. Why Costco (Really, the prices can’t be beat!) wanted so much visibility in such a poor film is beyond me, but even more baffling is how Schaffer managed to squander the considerable talent of this cast—Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, Rosemarie DeWitt, Will Forte, and up-and-coming British actor/director Richard Ayoade.


And for a goofy comedy, The Watch certainly has a grim set-up. Evan (Stiller) is the local Costco manager and a devoted, involved member of Glenview, an Ohio community. In the early going, however, a friend of his is brutally murdered. So Evan, who’s understandably a little disturbed by this, pledges to help the overwhelmed police department track down the killer. He starts a neighborhood watch group, but the only men who express interest are three bozos. Bob (Vaughn) is a father looking for an excuse to have some guy time. Franklin (Hill) wants to be a cop but is way too trigger-happy for a job with Glenview’s Finest. Then, there’s Jamarcus (Ayoade), a soft-spoken Brit just looking to rescue a horny housewife or two.

With the exception of Ayoade, who a lot of viewers probably won’t be very familiar with, the principals are all playing variations on characters that have made them famous. Evan is the straight-laced, semi-humorless type who doesn’t have patience for the buffoons he’s voluntarily surrounded himself with. Bob is almost an identical clone of Beanie Campbell, Vaughn’s character in Old School, though the former is a little more innocent than the latter. Franklin, meanwhile, is Hill through and through. Gone is the nuance he brought to the tricky role in Moneyball; His character here is more inclined to just shout “That’s awesome!” no matter what emotion he’s really feeling.


Of course, if you’ve seen the trailer, you know the route the film takes. The Watch learns the murder was committed by a group of aliens. What’s worse is that Glenview appears to have been totally infiltrated, and the world could be in jeopardy if these guys can’t stop the seemingly inevitable.

Let’s get one bit out of the way; this film can be a pretty uncomfortable viewing experience due to certain events that have transpired in the real world over the last year. The first, of course, was the killing of Trayvon Martin, a Florida teen gunned down by a neighborhood watchman under very questionable circumstances. This event led to a title change (Neighborhood Watch to The Watch), and one can’t blame the studio for trying to distance this film from that event, but content-wise, it feels a little icky.

Of course, the Aurora, Colo. massacre might weigh a little heavily on your mind, as well. Pretty much anything that involves people using weapons recklessly runs the risk of being in bad taste for the very near future. Neither event has much to do with the film itself, but one’s experience watching it very well might be negatively impacted. It’s just hard to laugh at behavior that off the screen has actually taken lives, especially considering The Watch isn’t exactly sharp social satire.


In all fairness, the humor doesn’t totally fall flat. You’ll certainly chuckle a few times (definitely at the comical Costco product placement), but too often the script goes for a predictable “dick-and-balls joke.” None of the actors really comes away unscathed, except perhaps Ayoade, and that’s probably because we aren’t programmed to expect as much out of him as we are of A-list comedians like Stiller, Hill, and Vaughn.

There are a lot of preposterous (even for the movies) sci-fi elements that don’t do the film any favors. It’s just a mess of a film in so many ways. It seems unfathomable that, at some point in the production, one of these super funny actors didn’t take a step back and say “Guys, this is terrible. Let’s fix it!” Maybe they were having too much fun on set. Maybe not enough fun. Maybe they were drunk the whole time. Whatever the reason, they’ve failed us big time, which is something that’s become frighteningly commonplace lately with Stiller and Vaughn. What a shame.

1 Costco, in fact, is not affiliated with this review, its author, or this website.
2 They still have pretty good prices, though.

Rating
3.0

Liked this article? Try These!

Comments

Meet the Author

Follow Us