In Glenview, Ohio, Evan (Ben Stiller) is trying to be the everyman manager of the local Costco when the night-shift security officer, Antonio (Joe Nunez), s brutally murdered. Outraged by the unjustness of this taken life and inspired by the suggestion in the news interview of a local police officer, Sgt. Bressman (Will Forte), that the citizens aren’t doing enough to protect their town, he decides to create a Neighborhood Watch whose first mission is to solve the murder of his coworker. His group begins with less gusto than anticipated when Bob (Vince Vaughn), Franklin (Jonah Hill), and Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade) join and seem more interested having a group of men to bro-out with and escape the troubles in their personal lives. However, once they discover the murders are really caused by an alien invasion, they work together to save each other and end up saving their personal lives in the process.
Teamwork and mass destruction—bro flick essentials. Photo Source: thehollywoodreporter.com
This film was no stranger to product placement. You are prepped to not expect anything less than a constant barrage when, during the first 5 minutes of the movie, Evan informs us he is a manager at the mother of wholesale, Costco. My favorite random obvious hidden message was the Tide, which is apparently in isle “underground cellar”. Where did the money go? My best guess is towards the 10+ music montages awkwardly placed throughout the film.
These theatrical dance breaks, along with an underdeveloped sentimental subplot that jaggedly weaves throughout, and a jumpy progression of the plot in general results in a poorly paced movie. Luckily, the story was a bit cliché and simple enough to follow along.
The sentimental subplot involved revealing each of the men’s “hidden” motives as to why they wanted to join the watch. Evan feels inadequate because of sterility, Bob has lost control of his daughter as she enters her teens, Franklin seeks acceptance after being rejected from law enforcement jobs, and Jamarcas…well…he really does just want friends and ball sucking, like the anecdote he uses to introduces himself at the first meeting. This heartfelt underline had the potential to strengthen the integrity of the film, or at least the laughs, but was underdeveloped and felt like an afterthought. It did however successfully bring a new sensitive level to Vince Vaughn’s acting skills that I hadn’t seen before. He still attempts to cover it with sex jokes, but a bit less than usual.
He’s got a soft side, too. Photo Source: vincev.com
In any case, this movie was funny. While it delivered some cheap laughs, which I’ll discuss later, I did enjoy the humor of the chaos and the strange characters. However, it seemed like everyone but Richard Ayoade, who I am less familiar with and cannot judge, played their usual personas. Ben Stiller was the awkward, neurotic, semi-outcast trying to gain approval; Vince Vaughn was a less womanizing version of his loud, inappropriate self; Jonah hill, while looking even more fit than his recent role in 21 Jump Street, still mumbled around as the chubby, dimwitted pervert. It isn’t that I don’t enjoy these characters. Their performances in Meet the Fockers, Wedding Crashers, and Superbad had me in tears, but seeing them copied and pasted into another film had me disappointed and often took me out of the story. I’ve also seen these actors go out of their comfort zone and do some hilarious stuff. I know they can do better. Some scenes where the actors would all banter back and forth at once felt like a producer’s pitch: “Oh man, wouldn’t it be so fucking hilarious to have these guys in the same room?” A solid question that often results in genius when you consider some of the industries greatest talents, but this just felt like a Seth Rogen film gone wrong.
“Moisture is the essence of wetness, and wetness is the essence of beauty.” Photo source: film.com
Aside from these motifs, the film did like to use stereotypes and references. Sometimes it took advantage of them and other times it beat you over the face with a slimy tentacle covered with alien allusions from years past. There were times that it bordered clever poke at a genre (like in 21 Jump Street) and straight up spoofs (Scary Movie style). It left me confused at the direction they were going.
If there was one clear goal that the makers of the movie had it was “put as many crude sex/dicks/vagina jokes in there as possible”, no matter the appropriateness of the joke in the context. I am all for dirty, sexual humor, I was a regular “that’s what she said” champ back in high school. And some of the jokes I enjoyed. But I can’t stand jokes inserted for obvious laughs, and this movie is full of them.
Can Vince Vaughn handle my insults? I’m sure he can take a BIG ONE. Photo source: zimbio.com
I would give The Watch a solid C+. The film offered some good laughs, surprising sentimental moments, and some neat effects. But it was trying a bit too hard to get there. Look out for some great cameo performances, great special effects, and some awesome graphic design in the fancy credits. I was pretty satisfied that I didn’t have to pay to see this film, but maybe I will catch it on Netflix in a year and watch it again.
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