The Watch

The Watch is the beginning of the end of frat pack comedies.

By its very nature, a comedy is meant to be funny. This is made possible by either using clever and well placed wit, or slapstick gags, or a combination of both. Supposedly intended as a comedy, The Watch is fundamentally deficient in any and all aspects that are essential to its conception, less so it’s making. Instead, what we have here is a blatant and utter disregard for the genre, made worse by the overuse of one, just one tasteless gag – the ode to a phallus.

The story begins with the introduction of Evan Trautwig (Ben Stiller), a manager at the local Costco department store and an active civic member of the township of Glenview, Ohio. After the gruesome murder of the store’s security guard, and the indifference shown by the local police in solving the crime, Evan decides to apprehend the culprit by initiating a Neighborhood Watch unit. Following a somewhat embarrassing public speech, Evan is left with no choice but to recruit the only three people who respond to his call for vigilance. With less than appealing introductions, they are Bob (Vince Vaughn) a family man who needs an excuse to party, Franklin (Jonah Hill) a wannabe cop who has failed to qualify on all counts, and Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade) a Brit with the kinks for Asian housewives. When more townsfolk start to disappear, Evan and his three stooges discover the presence of an extraterrestrial life form ̶ a green blooded hostile alien lurking in human form, with intent on annihilating the planet (no less).

Anyone reading that synopsis could easily mistake this for a contemporary sci-fi movie. The Watch is much more; Try Horror, whodunit murder-mystery, drama, action and a slight case of comedy, all in that order. Considering the combined comic potential of Stiller, Vaughn, Hill and Ayoade, you would expect this to be a laugh out riot. Somehow it just doesn’t gel. The film’s second biggest failure is the fact that this frat pack formula doesn’t seem to work. If anything, it appears overdone. Vaughn plays his favorite character – a protective family man who craves buddy time with just the guys. Stiller is in his comfort zone as the only character caught between doing what he has to do and what he wants to do. Ayoade’s performance feels like a Stand-up act; it’s got Saturday Night Live written all over. Hill is the most disappointing of the lot and goes from his Oscar nominated fervour in Moneyball all the way back to his lanky weirdo in Pineapple Express and Superbad. Speaking of which brings me to the film’s biggest problem. Everything from the dialogue to the action feels carbon-copied for Hill, Vaughn and Stiller. They just do and say what they have done and said in previous films. Only this time, profanity is at an all-time high with umpteen references to the male reproductive system. How does this relate to saving the planet from an alien invasion? Believe it or not, it does in the ludicrous manner in which they save the day.

Director Akiva Schaffer, in context the proverbial lamb to the slaughter, does not seem to have had a snowball’s chance in hell in putting this very unfunny comedy together. As the director, what are the odds of a successful comedy when the premise is about a small town with no one but four idiots who band together to stop an alien invasion? To find out, I dare say give it a try. If you do, I dare you to watch The Watch without looking at your watch.

[Rating: 2.5

About Lloyd Bayer

Besides his passion for travelling, photography and scuba diving, Lloyd is a prolific film critic having contributed hundreds of film reviews to web and print journals, including IMDb and local daily Khaleej Times.