Directed by: Akiva Schaffer
Premise: A group of suburban men begin a neighborhood watch group and discover an alien invasion is imminent.
What Works: One of the recent trends in the comedy genre is the bromance, as seen in films like I Love You, Man and Hot Tub Time Machine, in which a group of emasculated men regain their self-respect through a combination of misadventures, beer, and male camaraderie. The Watch follows that trend and the scenes that focus on the bromance between the four lead characters give the film much of its best material. Each of the main actors is cast to his strengths: Ben Stiller is the neurotic but likable leading man, Jonah Hill plays a borderline psychopathic slacker, Vince Vaughn is cast as the fast talking guy’s guy, and Richard Ayoade is the nerd of the group. Had The Watch focused on the group dynamic and successfully exploited the comic possibilities of of a neighborhood watch organization it could have been a lot of fun.
What Doesn’t: The Watch is a terrible movie with bad decisions made by the filmmakers at every turn. This picture fails in so many ways it is difficult to identify a single responsible party but as with most bad films the problems of The Watch are rooted in its script. The Watch was co-written by Jared Stern, Seth Rogen, and Evan Goldberg; Stern’s writing career includes a single feature, the abysmal Mr. Popper’s Penguins, while Rogan and Goldberg’s writing credits include mismatches of action and comedy like The Green Hornet and Pineapple Express. The Watch clearly descends from those films and shares their flaws. For most films, but especially for comedies, success largely depend on establishing an appropriate tone and staying within the boundaries of that tone for the duration of the picture. The filmmakers behind The Watch literally sabotage their movie in the opening scene with a bloody death that is out of place with the rest of the movie. A lot of successful comedies are violent but The Watch begins with the tone of a horror picture and equivalent scenes of violence occur periodically throughout the rest of the film. This has the effect of muting whatever comedy the filmmakers manage to muster and The Watch’s radical shifts in tone make the film a disjointed mess. The Watch seems to have been conceived along the lines of Men in Black and Ghostbusters in which ordinary people cope with extraordinary circumstances but for that to work the story has to be played straight. The Watch is all over the place, alternating between scenes of goofy situational comedy, bawdy humor, and horrific violence. And just as The Watch’s set pieces are disconnected from one another so are the performances by the lead actors. The main cast members are proven performers but they never cohere as a comedy troupe and their contributions to this picture are lazy. Even Vince Vaughn, a reliably energetic screen presence, is just going through the motions.
Bottom Line: The Watch is one of those pictures in which it seems that everyone in front and behind the camera had a different idea of what the picture was supposed to be and each of them works against everyone else. The inevitable result: no one succeeds and the film is a disaster.
Episode: #399 (August 5, 2012)