Despite an all star list of comedic talent both in front of and behind the camera, the sci-fi, action, buddy film The Watch is only a sporadically funny late summer time waster that disappoints because the film ultimately can’t figure out how to create a consistent tone.
Following the murder and skinning of a Costco security guard, Glenview, Ohio’s biggest community advocate (Ben Stiller) puts together a ragtag neighbourhood watch to patrol the streets. The not-so-close knit brotherhood of a braggart (Vince Vaughn), a police academy burn out (Jonah Hill), and a proper sounding but filthy minded British man (Richard Ayoade) spend more time boozing and joking around than doing real work, but they eventually find out that the murder is connected to an impending alien invasion.
Directed by Akiva Schaffer (from The Lonely Island) and working from a script co-written by no less than Superbad collaborators Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, this sort of material with this cast should be easy to pull off, and while it’s quite funny in spurts, no one seems to be on the same page.
Stiller does his usual commendable work as the dorky, uptight leader of the group, and Vaughn does his usually bullying of everyone around him as the blowhard who thinks he knows best, but this isn’t anything new from Stiller and Schaffer gives Vaughn far too much leeway allowing him to riff and go off script to an almost staggeringly unfunny degree. Ayoade gets a nice showcase for his comedic talents in North America, but Hill has less than nothing to do here and no material to work with.
The film also starts off with a considerably different, more satirical tone than the rest of the film. Once the genuinely interesting idea of poking fun at sheltered middle American’s sense of entitlement fades, the film devolves into forced sentimentality that doesn’t have any emotional impact, and later it’s a gory, effects driven action film. None of the transitions in tone happen smoothly at all, leading to a film that feels like a bunch of sketches strung together.
Still, there are some good sized belly laughs to be had along the way and the chemistry between the leads is undeniable. There’s just way too much going on here with too many different voices at work that needed steadier hands to pull it all together.
Cast: Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, Richard Ayoade
Directed by: Akiva Schaffer
Top image: A scene from The Watch. Courtesy 20th Century Fox.