THE WATCH Review

I suspected something like this was going to happen when it came to The Watch. The general consensus of critics would be that this is a lazy and unfunny piece of work from two aging comedians that are likely looking for nothing more than a good paycheck. While I can certainly understand where they are coming from and I would have overall liked the film to be a bit more funny, I actually enjoyed the movie. Maybe it was the fact I was able to get a grasp of what critics were saying that lowered my expectations, but in the end I think it just comes down to the fact that what I was looking for from this movie is what it delivered and nothing more. I don't usually like to waste time in a review trying to justify why I enjoyed a movie versus what the majority of critics thought about it, but due to the fact this one has been so brutally abused by critics I felt it necessary to justify the fact I don't mind watching this group of guys do their thing, even if we have seen it before. As this is no longer 2004-05 I can see how the demand for a Ben Stiller/Vince Vaughn comedy might have decreased, but I can't deny the excitement of seeing them back together as a kind of return to form for the Frat Pack members. Do I wish there was a bit more satire to the tired alien genre? Yes. Do I wish the plot itself would have been a bit more clever, bringing together the strands of the script for a better payoff? Sure, but what I went into this movie looking for was laughs. Did I get as many as I wanted? Maybe not, but I laughed plenty enough and many times out loud. I liked the film, I walked out smiling and in a lite-comedy, isn't that all that really matters?

Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade), Bob (Vince Vaughn), Evan
(Ben Stiller), and Franklin (Jonah Hill) form the watch. 
If there was one aspect of the film that did disappoint me it would in fact be within the story. There was a lot to take advantage of here as last years Attack the Block demonstrated or even Paul, they were big, broad comedies that took advantage of the premise and embraced it for what it was while maintaining a sense of parody. I wanted the script, penned by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg no less, to not only poke fun at the care-free, easy going lifestyle of suburbanites but combining these satirical observations with those of an outlandish alien invasion plot. The opportunity was there but Rogen and Goldberg instead decided it would just be easier to have these guys improv back and forth guaranteeing some solid laughs while throwing in the extra-terrestrials for ridiculous effect and giving them some kind of goal to work towards for an hour and forty minutes. If you've seen the trailer you get the gist of what is going on here and you see the typical roles each actor has attached themselves to. Stiller plays the uptight, community leader who wears sweater vests and has no shame in embracing his life as a Costco manager. Vaughn is Vaughn, but to be honest he is the guy we haven't really seen on film since 2006. Since his string of knockouts from 2003's Old School through extended cameos in Starsky & Hutch to Anchorman paired with his leads in Dodgeball, Wedding Crashers, and The Break-Up Vaughn has been somewhat absent from the fast talking, R-rated persona we all loved so much. After two Christmas-themed films and two flops that could have been much better in Couples Retreat and The Dilemma the guy who could talk his way out of anything comes back with full force in The Watch and in this aspect alone, not to mention his hilarious pairings with Hill (please let them do a movie together soon) I enjoyed watching the film. I couldn't wait to hear what came out of the guys mouth and despite this being his go-to persona he's withheld it long enough for us to welcome it back with open arms.

The men of the neighborhood watch find a new toy their
friends from outer space seem to have lost.
As for Hill, who has been having a stellar year so far with his Academy award nomination and the success of 21 Jump Street he slides easily into the violence obsessed loser that still lives with his mom shtick. The wild card here was Richard Ayoade, a British comedian who is likely best known for his role as Moss in The IT Crowd. I have never seen the TV series, but will certainly be interested in checking it out as well as following where Ayoade's career goes from this point. His humor here though is so low-key it is somewhat overshadowed by the brashness of Vaughn and the ridiculousness of Hill's. As Stiller's career has gone on I have wondered what made us find him so funny in the first place? How has he come to be this kind of modern comedic standard? Those early days of being the guy unafraid to throw himself into physical gags or be regarded as a kind of clown seem so long ago. Here, while Stiller seemingly plays a man that is made up of characteristics he has played countless times before he also continues to show why he is so reliable. He can bring out the leading man side whenever he chooses to and then will slip in the perfect delivery of a comedic line that we are taken off guard by how funny it actually is. Stiller does it several times here as he navigates this odd group of guys through the course of male bonding and his own personal issues that include not being able to get his wife pregnant. His wife, as played here by Rosemarie DeWitt and her concern in the plot is undercooked as is Vaughn's daughter/parenting issues. It's almost as if the script felt like it had to include these things to feel like a real movie, but why must we let genre lines define a film? If anything this should have consisted of breaking those boundaries and making fun of the horror and buddy action flicks, testosterone action movies, and that suburban angst that deals with the concerns of the meaning of life.

Evan and Franklin interrogate a culprit in the egging
assault that took place on them.
While the cast holds up its end of the bargain, they really do bring the funny and are solid fun to watch for the whole of the running time, I can't say that director Akiva Schaffer did the same. His group of fake MC's The Lonely Island have made countless hilarious digital shorts for SNL for years and have even made one of the more underrated comedic gems of the last few years with Hot Rod but even as that movie was not generally accepted by critics it was no doubt a funny film that might just be of an acquired taste. What was significant about Hot Rod though was that it carried this very distinctive stamp on its brand of humor. It wasn't trying to be anything it wasn't, it was simply itself and it was hilarious. That distinctive style is what I was hoping to see, but instead feels absent from the barren center of The Watch. It is of course likely that with much bigger stars and a much bigger budget ($80 million, seriously?) that the studio was much more restrictive of the artistic and comedic liberties Schaffer could take with the project yet it seemed the parts he was able to slip in is what we saw in the trailers. Why couldn't they then follow through on what we were promised? What looked to be a high concept bit of satire that featured two proven comedians and two up and comers that could more than hold their own turns out to be what is likely a more watered down version of what must have attracted Schaffer, Stiller, Vaughn, and Hill to the project in this first place. I am content with what I saw and will accept it because it made me laugh and didn't disappoint in a way I know it had the capacity of doing. And though I will likely never see it, and maybe it doesn't exist at all, I can still imagine there is a directors cut out there that matches the extra miles this could have gone to be something more. They aren't reinventing the wheel here, but it is a delight to watch when hanging out with a group of friends on a random night that will leave a smile on your face.