The Laughs End Early in The Watch
- Christian Hamaker Contributing Film and Culture Writer
- 2012 27 Jul
DVD Release Date: November 13, 2012
Theatrical Release Date: July 27, 2012
Rating: R for some strong sexual content including references, pervasive language and violent images
Run Time: 98 min.
Director: Akiva Schaffer
Cast: Ben Stiller, Jonah Hill, Vince Vaughn, Richard Ayoade, Rosemarie DeWitt, Will Forte, Mel Rodriguez, Doug Jones, Erin Moriarty, Nicholas Braun, R. Lee Ermey, Joe Nunez
You’d think a movie starring Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill would be a sure hit. They’ve been in their share of dud movies, but they remain appealing performers who, when good (Stiller in Tropic Thunder, Vaughn in Swingers, Hill in Moneyball), are very good. Unfortunately, The Watch is not good.
But that doesn’t mean The Watch has no laughs. It does have a few, although the jokes that land are the exception amid far too many unsuccessful attempts at humor by the filmmakers. Considering the talent involved, there should have been deeper, longer laughs than what The Watch offers up.
Do-gooder Evan (Stiller) considers himself a friend to most everyone in his neighborhood, priding himself on knowing people of different races and ethnicities. However, his “friends” are little more than acquaintances, and his marriage is strained. Evan spends his days working at Costco and his evenings trying to figure out why he and his wife (Rosemarie DeWitt (Rachel Getting Married), in a wasted role) haven’t been able to start a family.
When a Costco employee (Joe Nunez, Seven Pounds) dies a bloody death while working the night shift, Evan organizes a neighborhood watch to help track down the killer. Joining him are Bob (Vaughn), who’s mainly interested in getting out of the house once a week and having a drink with the fellas; Franklin (Hill), who lives with him mom and wonders why women “don’t see the magic that is me;” and Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade, Submarine), who’s preoccupied with sexual fantasies about the women he plans to protect under the auspices of the neighborhood watch group.
The killer, it turns out, isn’t human... it’s an alien. It’s like the producers decided humanity needed another alien flick and served up The Watch, a summer blockbuster wannabe. Remember Men in Black 3? That summer alien comedy opened so long ago, on May 25! And Prometheus was all the way back on June 8!
It turns out that aliens—a whole army of them, although we initially see just one—are the best thing to happen to The Watch. For a moment, when the alien is first revealed, the film bristles with the excitement of the unexpected, a brief but giddy anticipation that we might be in for a seriously cool, special-effects-driven hybrid film that’s not quite a full-blown comedy, not quite a sci-fi spectacle. Something closer to The Hidden.
But with Stiller, Vaughn and Hill on tap, it’s no surprise that the movie chooses comedy. That decision wouldn’t be difficult to justify had the film scored a sufficient number of laughs. Instead, the comic performers are reduced to reaction shots and surprised exclamations of “What the f--k?!” (or variations thereof) over and over again. If that’s your idea of a good time, then The Watch is the movie for you.
The film’s finale revolves around activities in the home of Evan’s suspicious new neighbor. No, he’s not a murderer, but the host of a local orgy at which some of Evan’s friends choose to partake. The film culminates with a big battle between invading aliens and the vastly outnumbered neighborhood watch group. Guess who triumphs?
The Watch, which was co-written by another popular screen comedian, Seth Rogen, ends up more depressing than amusing. If this is the best that Rogen, Stiller, Vaughn and Hill can come up with, the future of movie comedy should be left to others.
The aliens? They were actually pretty cool. Maybe next time, the aliens should write the film. Perhaps they have a higher-minded sense of humor.
- Language/Profanity: Lord’s name taken in vain; steady use of foul language throughout, including numerous uses of the “f”-word; explicit references to sex acts and to bodily fluids; a dad and his daughter cuss at each other
- Alcohol/Smoking/Drugs: Drinking and smoking; a character says he “has weed in [his] pocket”
- Sex/Nudity: Women in bikinis; a dad suspects his daughter is sleeping with a classmate, and he tells her, “Sex is for love”; a series of frat-boy style photos; an orgy includes several couples engaged in sex and implied masturbation; bare breasts; Evan’s wife engages in sexual role-playing; pornographic magazine covers; a man kisses a married woman
- Violence/Crime: Guns are brandished and fired; a guard is killed by an unseen alien, and we see blood splatter against a window; a man’s hollowed out corpse is shown; a character slices open his palm; a stash of guns is revealed; a heart is inserted back into a character’s body in hopes of resuscitation; a weapon causes huge explosions; a man is stabbed from behind by an alien
- Marriage: Evan’s marriage is strained by the couple’s inability to conceive
Questions? Comments? Contact the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Publication date: July 27, 2012