The Watch REVIEW
If the Reservoir Dogs had worse dress sense...
Release Date: 27 August 2012
15 | 102 minutes
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Director: Akiva Schaffer
Cast:Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, Richard Ayoade, Rosemarie DeWitt
Seemingly perfect, placid suburban neighbourhoods harbouring a dark secret have been fodder for movies for years now, exploited to great effect by the likes of Tim Burton, who’s mined creepy characters and oddball comedy from the concept. Unfortunately The Watch, which aims to be a blend of ‘80s Amblin-style comedy and the gross-out gumption of The Hangover, doesn’t get the formula correct enough to be either particularly funny or all that scary.
Ben Stiller plays buttoned-down, community cheerleading nerd Evan, a man who’s thrown himself into organising societies and clubs, but doesn’t quite seem able to make real friends. He’s the manager of the local Costco, and when one of his employees is killed under mysterious circumstances, he decides to act, forming a Neighbourhood Watch group in an attempt to keep everyone safe. But the only people who respond to his call to arms are an unlikely threesome of slobby, party-happy dad Bob (Vaughn), weapon-obsessed wannabe lawman Franklin (Hill) and weird British transplant Jamarcus (Ayoade), who’s looking to get over his recent divorce by using the appeal of the Watch to score with the ladies.
With the actors playing variants on characters we’ve seen them pull off several times before, and given the freedom to riff on everything from cop clichés to male bonding, you might expect them to at least deliver on the jokes. But the well-worn rhythms simply feel stale.
As the gears slowly shift towards the alien threat aspect, the entertainment value rises. Director Akiva Schaffer – who’s spent time on Saturday Night Live – is actually better at marshalling the alien madness than making sure the funny works. And while the extra-terrestrials rarely become truly frightening, they are real, physical creatures (played for the most part by beast expert and Guillermo del Toro regular Doug Jones), which at least adds something to their impact. As the bickering between Evan and the rest gives way to teamwork against the oozing invaders, things become funnier. While Ayoade is largely wasted despite being one of the leads, he does at least bring something fresh to a big American comedy – though of course fans of Garth Marenghi and The IT Crowd might disagree.
Despite the talent involved, The Watch is a disappointingly bland effort. Want small town sci-fi madness that works? Go watch Tremors.
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