Ben Stiller as Evan
Vince Vaughn as Bob
Jonah Hill as Franklin
Richard Ayoade as Jamarcus
Rosemarie DeWitt as Abby
Will Forte as Sgt. Bressman
Mel Rodriguez as Chucho
Doug Jones as Hero Alien
Erin Moriarty as Chelsea
Nicholas Braun as Jason
R. Lee Ermey as Manfred
Joe Nunez as Antonio Guzman
Liz Cackowski as Carla
Johnny Pemberton as Skater Kid
Sharon Gee as Mrs. Kim
Eric Goins as Random Jogger – Jared
Directed by Akiva Schaffer
After the death of a security officer at his suburban Ohio Costco, store manager Evan Trautwig (Ben Stiller) decides to form a Neighborhood Watch to find his killer, a motley crew that includes the boisterous Bob (Vince Vaughn), the reprobate Franklin (Jonah Hill) and an odd Brit named Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade). The group members find themselves constantly at odds with the local police as they try to find the killer.
You’d think with the pedigree behind this R-rated comedy, it would have all the bases covered in terms of making a strong mainstream comedy. Let’s take a comedy roll call: first, we have a screenplay by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, whose writing work has helped redefine the modern R-rated comedy; you have big name stars like Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill, all of whom are perfectly capable of headlining their own comedies; producing you have Shawn Levy, the epitome of the studio comedy and Akiva Schaffer of the Lonely Island directing.
We’re going to let Rogen and Goldberg off the hook on this one, as they probably didn’t have as much to do with effin’ this one up as everyone else involved, but how that much comedy talent can be involved with making something so unfunny is simply baffling.
From the beginning, it’s obvious Ben Stiller is in his “every guy” mode where he basically settles for playing straight man to everyone else, which isn’t a good thing when everyone else is coasting through this in hopes he’ll bring the funny. Vince Vaughn is basically playing the same character he always does and that probably wore thin five movies ago and he doesn’t even seem to be trying to do anything above what we’ve seen him do before. We have no idea what Jonah Hill was shooting for with his role as the tough reprobate on the team, but it’s not a very well defined character that seems partially recycled from “21 Jump Street” and not even remotely credible. British actor/director Richard Ayoade doesn’t add much to the mix even though he does have some funny lines and moments – it’s hard not to think Jemaine Clement could have brought more to this role even if the role may be too similar to previous ones.
What it comes down to is that the combination of those four actors and their different styles doesn’t necessarily work. It’s like trying to jam together a donut, a slice of pizza and peanut butter, assuming that all three working on their own would make an even more delicious combination when put together.
The R rating is used mainly so that they can all use the “F”-word liberally and throw in as many sexual references as possible, but none of it seems particularly inspired. The only one who uses the profanity with any conviction is R. Lee Ermey, who has a small role as one of their neighbors.
It may not be obvious from the marketing (from which this major plot point is mysteriously omitted), but the guys end up encountering an alien that’s been killing local people, and the actual alien stuff is the one area where the movie doesn’t completely falter since the aliens look suitably menacing thanks to some solid creature performing by Doug Jones (“Pan’s Labyrinth”).
Amidst all of that, they try to maintain the heartfelt sentiment Rogen and Goldberg often bring to their scripts. Evan’s wife, played by the lovely Rosemarie Dewitt–one of the few actors who actually works well in her role–is trying to have a baby, while Bob, for all his bravado, is worried about his teenage daughter growing up too fast and he’s overprotective of her. These are the kinds of nice character touches we’ve come to expect from Rogen/Goldberg, but by the point Stiller and Vaughn have a heart-to-heart talk about their respective problems, they’ve already made their characters so insufferable, it’s hard to care about subplots that help make their characters more tolerable.
Other than the aliens, the only real conflict comes when the guys get into an argument and split up, something that’s been seen so many times it’s expected. All of it seems predictable, because it’s all been done before and better whether it’s in any of the “Men in Black” movies or “Attack the Block” or “Hot Fuzz,” leaving one scratching their head how so many genuinely funny people couldn’t figure out how to make this one work.
The Bottom Line:
Maybe with a little alcoholic lubrication, there are a few laughs to be had in “The Watch” but mostly, it’s lazy, uninspired, unoriginal and unfunny, a real dud and a definite notch in the loss column for all involved.