From Lonely Island member and ‘MacGruber’ directo,r Akiva D. Schaffer, comes ‘The Watch’ starring Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, and Richard Ayoade. When a Costco employee is murdered and the police don’t do much to get to the bottom of it, uptight manager Evan Trautwig, played by Stiller, forms a neighborhood watch group to take matters into their own hands. Then, while investigating the case, they actually uncover an alien plot that threatens the planet. Originally called ‘Neighborhood Watch’, the title was changed after the 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watch member.
For starters, I found it difficult to call ‘The Watch’ a sci-fi comedy at times. Due to pacing problems that didn’t meld the genres well, at times it was more comedy than sci-fi. Basically, it was what we came to expect from writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, wicth some really cool sci-fi elements worked in that had the Rogen/Goldberg stamp on it. I mean, ‘Weekend At Bernie’s’ with an alien? That scene was particularly hilarious. Don’t get me wrong, the sci-fi things that were thrown in at the end were pretty cool, but I wish that there was a bit more of it throughout the film rather than squeezing most of it into the third act.
In addition to pacing problems, there were some weak story elements as well. In particular, there was a certain reveal in the movie that should’ve been much bigger than it was. Something that big shouldn’t have come so easily. The convenience of this reveal was very sloppy screenwriting.
Despite the story problems, I liked the cast for the most part. First and foremost, Ayoade was the breakout performer of the film. He had some great bits and lines throughout the film. It really is a shame that he didn’t get top billing along his three bigger co-stars. His name really deserves to be on the poster and in all the advertising. Jonah Hill was in good form, as he usually is in these sorts of movies. He really knows how to bring Rogen and Goldberg’s characters to life, or they really know how to write for him. Vince Vaughn exhibited a wide range of emotions, making for a comparatively deep and complex character.
The weakest performance out of the main cast had to be Ben Stiller. His performance harkened back to his former role of Tony Perkis from ‘Heavyweights’ in some instances, but then the character flip-flopped. First he would do something in character with his uptight ways, and then all of a sudden he’d be accepting of the wild ways of his compatriots. Rather than provide an arc for his character, it was more of a zigzag pattern.
Overall, ‘The Watch’ was semi-entertaining. Based on the story and the pacing issues, it really showed that the filmmakers decided to switch directions halfway through development. It almost seemed like two different movies at times. On a five-star scale, I give this movie 2.5 stars.