THE WATCH – The Review
Seems like pesky real life can really get in the way of selling a movie. That’s what the folks at Fox must have thought several months ago when the Trayvon Martin case was making headlines. They’d already sent out teaser posters for their wacky Summer comedy ” Neighborhood Watch”. Well that title wouldn’t bring smiles to anyone’s faces after the Florida story. So, now it’s in theatres with a new title THE WATCH. Can one word really distance it from the tragedy? That’s what the marketing executives are hoping. But you what movie comedy are hoping? We hope this ” Avengers-like” teaming of comedy heroes will deliver the yucks! They’ve all got a pretty impressive track record, so…will this take our minds off the nasty news headlines?
The movie plunks us down on a quiet, nice suburban street in Ohio. Life’s good for nice guy Evan ( Ben Stiller ). He’s the manager of the local Costco warehouse store. He’s got a lovely home and a lovely wife, Abby ( Rosemarie DeWitt ). Oh, and they’re really trying to have a child. All’s well until a brutal crime at his work shakes up Evan. The local police, led by obnoxious Sgt. Bressman ( Will Forte ), aren’t making much progress in finding the culprit, so Evan takes matters into his own hands and announces during halftime at the high school football game that he’s forming a neighborhood watch patrol. He’s mocked by the folks in the stands ( and Bressman ), but three neighbors show up at Evan’s home for the first meeting. There’s the motor-mouthed, gregarious Bob ( Vince Vaughn ), who thinks the watch is just a good way for the guys to hang out away from their wives. Much more enthused about the watch is Franklin ( Jonah Hill ), a twenty-something high school dropout still living at home who’s irked that he didn’t pass the police entrance exams. Rounding out the foursome is transplanted Brit Jamarcus ( Richard Ayoade ) who’s eager to help ( and eager to hook up with those desperate housewives he’s heard about ). Soon the guys discover that these criminals are not of this world. How are they going to convince the authorities? And are some of these nasty aliens living in disguise right next door?
Yup, four, count em’, four comedy heavyweights in this flick. So I wondered why the film felt so, flat. It seems to run out of steam ( or momentum ) about the halfway point. The fellas are really trying, although they seemed to be trying too hard in certain scenes ( I smell improv! ). Stiller’s in his put-upon nice guy role that netted big returns as Greg Focker and that museum guard, but he doesn’t really get much of a chance to bust out as he’s done in supporting roles in DODGEBALL : A TRUE UNDERDOG STORY. I really miss Mr. Furious! Vaughn’s Bob is a lot of fun until he starts channeling Tony Danza In SHE’S OUT OF CONTROL and froths at the mouth as he tries to protect his teen daughter’s purity. More disturbing than funny. Hill’s Franklin is pretty disturbing also as he brandishes his knife constantly. His cop-wannabe character seems a bit too close to the neighborhood watchman on trial in Florida. At other times, he’s a more cuddly version of co-screenwriter Seth Rogan In OBSERVE AND REPORT. The real discovery here is Ayoade, who scores big laughs with his smooth low key delivery. I’ve only known him as the maker of last year’s excellent SUBMARINE and as a co-star of the very funny British TV show ” Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace ”. But even his considerable talents can’t rescue this film when it hits a speed bump. The same goes for DeWitt, so wonderful in the recent YOUR SISTER’S SISTER, is regulated here to the exasperated missus. Summer flick MVP Forte ( he brightened up the dismal ROCK OF AGES and THAT’S MY BOY ), but neither he nor two great character actors playing odd neighbors can right this train once it leaves the tracks. Perhaps Akiva Schaffer ( HOT ROD and countless SNL Viral Videos ) could’ve tightened up the pacing. I think the problem may just be an unwieldy script. The brutal beating of a main character at mid-point seems to bring the laughs to a dead halt, as does a verbal fight meant to split the team that comes off as a forced conflict. While many films have mixed genres ( SHAUN OF THE DEAD immediately springs to mind ), the bouncy CGI aliens ( like the SUPER 8 beastie from a yaer ago ) never really mesh with these suburban goofballs. It’s especially upsetting when they grab firearms from Franklin’s hidden massive arsenal ( pretty creepy after last week’s horrors ). I was rooting for this flick because of my great affection for these actors and their past projects. I hope that if they team again, they’ll leave the mayhem to the secret agents and super heroes of Summertime. Ben, Jonah, Vince, and Richard are much more entertaining when they share a couple of beers and shoot the breeze ( instead of EFX gargoyles ).
Overall Rating: 3 Out of 5 Stars