Actually, only Evan (Ben Stiller) is really in the neighborhood watch for the neighborhood protection aspect of it. Bob (Vince Vaughn) is looking for buddies to play pool and drink beer with in his garage man cave. Franklin (Jonah Hill) is a slightly unhinged would-be cop. Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade) is new in town and looking to meet people, specifically, he hopes, a woman who might be feeling grateful to a neighborhood watch member who saved her from danger. But for Evan, this watch is serious business. A Costco manager by day, Evan is horrified to learn that the store’s night guard, Antonio Guzman (Joe Nunez), was gorily murdered at the store. After the small police force shows a lack of get-down-to-business-ness, Evan decides to investigate the crime himself with his band of watch-ers.
As we learn early in the movie, the night guard’s death isn’t your average robbery-gone-wrong. A green slime is found on the scene and later tentacles and a strange but potent weapon are discovered. Evan and the crew start to realize that their foe may be something otherworldly.
The Watch suffers from a bit of bad timing. For the same reason the movie’s original title Neighborhood Watch was changed to just The Watch, scenes of neighborhood watch members — Franklin in particularly —who seem itchy to shoot somebody are unsettling to say the least. Scenes suggesting that Franklin is a simmering cauldron of homicidal rage (we get to see his rather large weapons collection) are also darker, viewed through the lens of the last few weeks, than they were probably meant to be. While The Dark Knight Rises had a more direct and immediate connection to real world violence, I think The Watch’s shades of violence are actually more disturbing because they are played for laughs. I don’t know that this all damns the movie, but I know that I couldn’t shake thoughts about the Trayvon Martin shooting and the Aurora, Colorado, killings while I was watching this movie.
Horrible real world violence — probably not a good reference point from which to view your comedy.
Assuming you can push past all that, The Watch is a fairly middling effort from everyone involved. Vaughn is turned to way too high a volume, too much of the rat-a-tat non-stop shrill chatter that is the hallmark of all of his recent characters. Comparatively, Stiller and Hill turn in OK performances. I have memories of the occasional smirk, but not a lot from either really made me laugh out loud. The standout here is Ayoade, who, according to the Internet, seems to be best known for British TV comedies. This is the first time I’ve seen him in anything, and it’s enough to make me want to finally search out The IT Crowd, the most recent series he’s been in.
I suggest we put The Watch away, back on a shelf somewhere behind the hot chocolate packets and individually wrapped snack cakes, and save it for some snowy day in 2014 when we need just a little comedy and the world (hopefully) won’t intrude so much on this movie’s setup. Then we can judge whether it’s an OK effort from normally funny people or just a late summer throwaway. C-
Rated R for some strong sexual content including references, pervasive language and violent images. Directed by Akiva Schaffer and written by Jared Stern and Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg,The Watch is an hour and 41 minutes long and is distributed by 20th Century Fox