Special to South Florida Times
In The Watch, four Glenview, Ohio residents — Evan (played by Ben Stiller), Bob (Vince Vaughn), Franklin (Jonah Hill) and Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade) — take it upon themselves to protect their neighborhood from the criminals who killed a recent U.S. citizen, local Costco security guard Antonio (Joe Nunez).
It wouldn’t be terribly hard to write off the script — by Jared Stern, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg — as another manchild romp with aliens in the background. There’s so much idiotic nincompoopery that it’s hard to take The Watch seriously.
Case in point, when the Neighborhood Watch comes upon an alien — which Evan offs with a garden gnome — you would think that they would try to bury the thing, report it to Area 51, or something. Instead they pose with it for pictures.
Akiva Schaffer, whose directing credits include multiple episodes of Saturday Night Live – Watch is his first feature-length film – leaves something to be desired. The comedy is slapstick funny. Audiences will even guffaw. But this isn’t a television sketch show, and there’s no substance to leave a lasting impression. The Watch will never be a classic comedy. It’s more of a throwaway film that should be relegated to late-night fare for insomniacs.
Stiller, Vaughn and Hill bring their usual charm but don’t really go out of their comfort zones for this one. Unfortunately, when audiences go to see an original film, they expect something new, not more of the same. The Watch just feels very “been there, done that.”
LOST IN TRANSLATION
Stiller’s Evan is the kind of guy who starts clubs for the fun of being in control and has aspirations of having friends from all walks of life, such as black people. He lives a controlled existence, carefully planning every move. This doesn’t always translate into funny onscreen.
Vaughn is classic, more like a gentle giant than the bear he tries to portray himself to be. Bob’s relationship with his daughter is touching at times, but his parenting skills leave more to be desired. Hill takes a nice turn as Franklin, the wannabe cop, although his cop alter-ego Schmidt, on 21 Jump Street, is a better wannabe tough guy. Again, there’s not much of a stretch for any of these actors.
What is amazing is how much Ayoade is missing in action when it comes to promoting The Watch. The London-born writer, director and actor has been filming The Double, a project he wrote and directed, which might explain his absence. But surely an actor with a major role in a big film should be seen and heard a lot more during promotion time and red-carpet moments.
Although The Watch does command laughs, the next film should take a page from Judd Apatow (Knocked Up, The 40 Year Old Virgin), who’s good at letting guys grow up before our eyes comically, and doesn’t need killer aliens to do so.