When Sci-Fi and comedy combine, there’s certainly no guarantee of a successful end product. For every Ghostbusters or Men In Black, there’s a Paul or Evolution. Yet with a script courtesy of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg and with Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughan, Jonah Hill and Richard Ayoade in the lead roles, the odds were seemingly stacked in The Watch’s favour. Yet after a slew of bad reviews and the dreaded ‘flop’ tag being bandied around from the get go, expectations have been driven extremely low.
I’ll happily go on record and say that I’m a big fan of a lot of the Appatow/Phillips style of frat-pack comedies. There’s plenty of bilge in there of course but, by and large, I can find something to chuckle at in an awful lot of them. While The Watch is nowhere near the very best of that specific comedy genre, for me it was certainly nowhere near as bad as many critics have been suggesting.
Ben Stiller is Evan, the manager of a Costco superstore. When the store security guard is killed in strange circumstances, he fears the cops won’t be any use and sets up his own Neighbourhood Watch group to keep their town safe and try to root out the killer. After trying to recruit some like-minded concerned citizens, Evan winds up with fun-loving loudmouth Bob (Vaughan), slightly unhinged police-school reject Franklin (Hill) and newly divorced Brit Jamarcus (Ayoade). With great predictability, the recruits are more interested in goofing around and treating it like their own little club rather than doing any real watch-work, much to Evan’s annoyance. Eventually however, they inadvertently stumble onto evidence of an alien invasion in their town and begin to realise they must take action to save their beloved community.
The Sci-Fi element of The Watch is largely irrelevant other than a device to move the plot along and deposit our heroes into a dangerous situation where they must save the day. The alien invasion takes place in the background while in the foreground the four new buddies bond and revel in their newfound sense of importance. There are a couple of other subplots, one involving Bob’s paranoia over his teenage daughter and her new boyfriend and a slightly under-cooked one involving Evan, his wife and their inability to conceive (even just writing it here, it seems out of place). These all play second fiddle however to the main thrust of the movie, four dudes messing around and being a bit vulgar.
The cast is where for me, the film is saved from being a dud and elevated to being a fairly decent if unremarkable comedy. Vince Vaughan is being Vince Vaughan; it’s the same character we’ve seen him do since Swingers, through Old School and the Wedding Crashers. This is where it all becomes a matter of taste. He’s playing another motor-mouthed, offensive, crude and often obnoxious character, but if you find Vaughan’s usual schtick funny, which I certainly do, you will find him on fine form here. Stiller has a largely thankless role, essentially playing the dull and officious straight man of the group. Meanwhile, both Ayoade and Hill have great fun with their characters, even though here again they are hardly stretching themselves from their typical screen personas. With a weaker comedy cast, it may not have been so enjoyable, but thankfully these four leads riff off each other pretty well and all get their fair share of laugh-out-loud moments.
It is in a way understandable as to why The Watch has received some fairly scathing reviews. It is often offensive, the plot is largely superfluous and the aliens themselves are fairly ropey. However, if you tend to find its four leads funny in their other movies and don’t mind a spot of crudity, it’s perhaps worth giving it a chance. It’s a fair way off being a classic, but as far as dumb yet funny buddy movies go, it’s a thoroughly entertaining 100 minutes.