Not bad, but not brilliant, is probably the best way to describe ‘The Watch’. The combination of Jonah Hill, Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Richard Ayoade in one film should amount to more than what it does, but it is still an enjoyable and funny time at the cinema.
It follows the life of suburban busybody Evan Trautwig (Stiller), the founder of the running club, the Spanish speaking club and many, many more, who is also the senior manager of the local successful branch of the Costco chain.Here, the huge in-movie advertisement begins, with Costco almost a supporting cast-member to our four heroes. It is constantly mentioned, the beginning AND end of the film is situated there and the camera often lingers far too long on that menacing corporate logo. You really wonder just how much of the film’s £68 million budget was held up by the major conglomerate.
Anyway, a gruesome murder occurs at Costco (see where this is going?!), and Stiller’s control freak character decides to start a Neighbourhood Watch group (originally the film’s title, before a tragic shooting in Florida changed that). This entices in Jonah Hill, Vince Vaughn and newcomer, to American audiences, Richard Ayoade. It’s not long before they feed from each other, creating some hilarious situations and lines that had me and my mates guffawing with laughter. Hill, fresh off the success of school-cop comedy ’21 Jump Street’, the biggest box-office hit of his career, plays a slightly different character to his norm, a cold-blooded, often seemingly insane young man, but grows in his role as the film progresses. Vaughn has never been one of my favourite comedians, his humour mainly just shouting things, often lots of swear words, as loudly as possible and for as long as possible. It’s clear to see his days are numbered, and he was by far the most annoying character in this. Ayoade was very good! A pure wildcard, you’ve got to think it was Stiller’s idea to include him, following the production of Ayoade’s debut directorial feature ‘Submarine’, in which Stiller ‘presented’. It was a good choice, as Ayoade ensured it wasn’t an all-American ‘dude-a-thon’, joining in with his distinctive British tones, and his trademark irrelevant humour, he didn’t say a lot, in stark contrast to Vaughn, but almost everything he did say raised a laugh from someone in the audience!
The story is throwaway, your standard alien invasion fare, and something that was done a lot better in the British production, ‘Attack the Block’, where the sense was grounded, and that the local community was what mattered first and foremost. Here, at the first hint of an invasion, it is that the aliens are going to destroy the world, instantly shredding any sense of small-town chaos and feeling strange in what is essentially a comedy, to bring any sort of seriousness. Throw in a sub-storyline of Vaughn’s child problems, and Stiller’s wife issues, and then the ‘laddish’ comedy which is present throughout and what you are left with is, is a bit of a half-cooked mess of a movie, never quite knowing when to ‘be’ funny and when to be serious, when to claim the world is in danger, when to make a fart joke.
It’s never really boring, but it passes the time, in the second half especially, when the seemingly empty well of joke, dries up fast. It may sound overly harsh, but I did enjoy the film for what it was, just a very hammy script, full of awful dialogue, humorous parts often coming when the stars are left to their own devices and improv, tonnes of movie cliché’s and the sense that you know these comedians could and should be producing much funnier fare, results in a bit of a ‘meh’ response. Oh and you will be sick to death of hearing about Costco too, that’s for sure!
An average summer time flick, if you want to see a truly hilarious film, check out ‘Ted’, more outrageous, more funny and just generally better!