The Watch (2012)
Well-meaning nerd Evan Trautwig (Ben Stiller) forms a Neighborhood Watch association after his coworker is brutally murdered at the beloved Costco he proudly manages. His pledge to form the group, in order to catch the killer, nets him three followers from the suburbs. Together they come to realize the real mystery in need of solving is why a cadre of angry aliens appears to have moved into their hood.
Jeff, a nosey former neighbor of mine, once pressured my husband and I to join our local Neighborhood Watch. We declined because our work schedules didn’t permit the time to commit to meetings, but we promised to keep an eye out for any wrongdoing on our sleepy street. That wasn’t good enough for Jeff and he creepily informed me, “Your backyard is my view, so I’ll know what’s going on.” It was the happiest day of my life when he finally moved and found another family to spy on. I wish I’d had Evan Trautwig’s taskforce at my disposal instead – at least I could’ve counted on a good laugh instead of feeling like I had to live with my shades permanently drawn!
With a cast like the aforementioned Stiller, Vince Vaughn (Bob Finnerty) and Jonah Hill (Franklin) you know what to expect. Throw in the fact that Seth Rogen and his writing partner Evan Goldberg (Pineapple Express, Super Bad, Knocked Up and so on) penned the script and you’ve got some fairly solid comedy to look forward to. The trio delivers, even when what they deliver is pretty predictable. Stiller is his usual high-strung Everyman, Vaughn borders on slapstick as he yells the majority of his lines and Hill does an incredible job of playing… Jonah Hill. What elevates this formula is the welcome addition of relative newcomer (to the U.S.) Richard Ayoade as Jamarcus. Ayoade is a highly enjoyable screen presence and I’m sure we’ll be seeing more from him after this film.
Aren’t there enough mysterious metal balls to share? That’s what he said!
As predictable as Stiller and Co. can be, they’re allowed to shift some of the blame to Rogen and Goldberg. Not more than five minutes passes without some kind of dick joke or reference, which is all well and good but leaves one wishing that Rogen had taken the time to explore new comedic territory to accompany stretching his wings into the sci-fi genre.
Instead of penning yet another penis pun, it would’ve been cool if Seth and Evan had done something truly subversive, like paying attention to the gaping plot holes and doing something to fix them. For instance, Costco must pay extremely well, given how lavish the Trautwig’s home is. It’s not clear what barely there Abby Trautwig (Rosemarie DeWitt) does for a living, but she must be bringing home the big bucks to supplement their massive household. Who knows – maybe they’re getting a cut of the endless product placements that are liberally smattered throughout the movie. You can blame execs trying to correct an overblown advertising budget if prices happen to rise at Costco…
There are more plot holes than this girl can shake an alien-goo-covered stick at, and the few twists are easy to guess. It’s got that blockbuster fun feeling, but no one will be hailed for covering new ground.
You don’t need to interrogate me, the endless dick jokes were punishment enough.
While there’s obviously a hefty dose of comedy (including some genuinely laugh-out-load moments), the tone is surprisingly dark and violent – something unfamiliar to Stiller’s usual catalogue. Also surprising are the bigoted “jokes.” Evan Trautwig is so used to his well-heeled P.C. white suburban life that, even as he’s actively trying to recruit black friends, he’s equally as shocked when one shows up on his doorstep. It’s an uncomfortable moment, made even more so by the fact that the film’s name was changed in order to distance itself from a very ugly real life tragedy. That, coupled with another horrendous recent catastrophe, will leave those who do venture back to the theater feeling a bit uneasy. I hate to leave this review on such a negative note, as the film doesn’t totally deserve it, but what could’ve been a lighthearted flick suffers somewhat in the face of reality.
Let’s walk away and reassess another time…
Everyone bringss his A-game to the field, but The Watch fails to turn it into a home run.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time you nod your head to a song. The soundtrack is excellent.
Take a Drink: for every time Evan Trautwig seems overly wound up.
Take a Drink: every time the men talk about their penises and/or makes a dick joke.
Do a Shot: if you can spot Andy Samberg in a super stealth (and very brief) cameo.
Not one little thing, so get back out there and enjoy the great outdoors!