The Watch (2012)
★ / ★★★★
Antonio Guzman (Joe Nunez), who recently gained American citizenship, is found dead at Costco with his skin missing. Evan (Ben Stiller), the manager of the store, is outraged by the death of his friend and vows to find his killer. During the intermission of a local football game, Evan announces that he wishes to from a neighborhood watch and everyone is welcome to join. As a team, they will keep an eye on suspicious activities in Glenview and keep their small town safe. Expecting many to turn up, only Bob (Vince Vaughn), Franklin (Jonah Hill), and Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade) decide to join Evan.
“The Watch,” written by Jared Stern, Seth Rogen, and Evan Goldberg, misses the mark not by a couple of inches but a few miles. What could have been an interesting commentary on the effects of an idyllic life in suburbia shaken suddenly is turned into an interminable would-be comedy show with jokes that a group of dirty-minded ten-year-olds can write.
It starts off promisingly. Evan narrates and talks about how he aims to gather friends of different ethnicities. I found it funny because it has a specific target that is being satirized: a white person living in suburbia who thinks that the world really is as simple as black and white. A lot of people out there believe that just because they have friends that either come or appear to be from different parts of the world, somehow they are immune from creating racist remarks or tolerating it. The picture seems to have a goal that it wishes to pursue other than to make the audience chuckle.
Unfortunately, its initial brilliance is shadowed by frat boy, man-child humor so bland that I found myself looking at the clock every three to five minutes and calculating the remaining minutes I had yet to sit through. At one point, I began to get extremely annoyed by Bob’s constant yelling as if he or everyone around him is deaf. Vaughn can be very funny but this script is clearly not right for him–or for anyone. I am willing to give the benefit of the doubt that perhaps the hypocrisy of his character is meant to be a criticism: a fun-loving, in-your-face guy who urinates in a can while inside a van is also an overly protective father especially when he sees a Facebook video of his teenage daughter making out in a closet with a random guy. Wouldn’t it have been more interesting if Bob, half the time, is played in a mousy way–maybe while participating in the neighborhood watch–but becomes Hulk-like when his daughter enters the equation?
Note that I have not mentioned the alien that murdered Antonio Guzman until now. That is because the special and visual effects look second-rate especially during the chase scenes. To hide this, heavy editing is utilized which actually makes the action less exciting. I would have preferred the aliens to look fake instead of sleek because the film is supposed to be a comedy. Why not allow the audience to laugh or poke fun of the bad makeup? I could have given it credit for being confident enough to have taken that risk.
Directed by Akiva Schaffer, “The Watch” is neither amusing as a comedy nor does it inspire a sense of wonder as a science fiction picture. So egregious as a sci-fi comedy hybrid that at times Jon Favreau’s sci-fi western “Cowboys & Aliens” flashed before my eyes. Saddest of all is seeing Billy Crudup’s talent go to waste as Evan’s creepy neighbor.