The only things more dangerous than the threat facing the good citizens of suburban Glenview, are the four guys who've come together to save them. Meet the Neighborhood Watch: civic-minded Evan (Ben Stiller), fun-loving family guy Bob (Vince Vaughn), tough-talking "wild card" Franklin (Jonah Hill) and the looking-for-love divorce Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade).
The Watch is full of surprises, given the marketing campaign that (barely) manages to parlay exactly what the film is about. While it is not great, it does have plenty of laughs and enough originality when it comes to a group of odd-balls defending their city from an alien invasion. But then again, none of them realize there is an alien invasion happening--and thus the big joke of The Watch is the fact that no one exactly knows what is going on, and everything the Neighborhood Watch does is a tad idiotic and far off track. The local authorities fare no better and are always meant to be seen as a device for comedy; a successful one in fact.
The Watch begins with Evan (Ben Stiller) introducing the audience via voiceover to his picturesque town in Ohio. The cookie-cutter existence, perfectly manicured grounds, and a plethora of groups one can join to keep themselves occupied. Said groups are courtesy of Evan, a constant planner and always desperately in need of being in control. When Evan's employee Chucho (Mel Rodriguez) is murdered while working the security nightshift at the Costco Evan manages he turns to the town to help protect each other from the murderer on the loose. The Neighborhood Watch is born, and the members are an odd-ball group of men who are all looking for something more than solving a crime. For Evan it is about finding Chucho's murderer, but for Bob (Vince Vaughn) it is an opportunity to make new friends he can drink beers with in his man cave. Franklin (Jonah Hill) always wanted to be a police officer, but failed the exams. The Neighborhood Watch is his way of making a name for himself, vigilante justice and all. Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade), well, he just wants to hang out and possibly get laid by helping the helpless hot woman who may open the door one day.
Everyone has their reason for being in the Neighborhood Watch, but the main story-line, that of solving the murder and in turn discovering aliens have indeed invaded, gets lost in the human emotion plotlines screenwriters Rogen, Stern, and Goldberg have included in The Watch. Each character is given a heavy handed, yet for the most part uninteresting, side storyline in order to fill space during the second act. The device appears to be meant to add emotion and grow a bond between the men that goes further than being a member of the Neighborhood Watch but the intentions here are not executed well. The result is a sluggish middle of a movie that at just over 90 minutes grows stagnate. The jokes are there in The Watch, as is a great main plotline of a bumbling group of men protecting their town from aliens. Even the small jabs at life in Suburbia that are included play well for a viewer--having Costco be an all-mighty destination is in itself full of possibilities for humor. The Watch becomes too involved in character and emotion, forgetting the real possibilities keeping to the basic plot held in the first place. Sometimes an alien invasion comedy just needs to be an alien invasion comedy. A lesson learned from The Watch.
Combining four very different comedic talents with Ben Stiller (There's Something About Mary), Vince Vaughn (Wedding Crashers), Jonah Hill (21 Jump Street), and newcomer Richard Ayoade the laughs are aplenty in The Watch. Stiller's Evan is the straight-guy, living the life in Suburbia and playing for laughs only in that he does not see how his own issues are what is funny. Regardless, Stiller may as well be cast with any actor who can play the more stick-in-the-mud character, it is the rest of the cast that makes a viewer of The Watch break into laughter.
Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill are fantastic on screen together. They become an inseparable pair, feeding off of one another's lines in an improvised style that creates hilarious jokes, anecdotes, and pitch-perfect timing for Bob and Franklin. Nearly unknown Richard Ayoade's Jamarcus can deliver a line with perfect inflection, never flinching or breaking a smile when the seriousness of what he has said is in fact a hilarious commentary. Jamarcus does not get nearly as much screen time as the other actors and one cannot help but wish he did. The real prize for comedic talent in The Watch goes to Will Forte as Sgt. Bressman. Forte plays the part of dimwitted police officer as good as it can be done. Each line, movement, stupid remark or disregard for the obvious results in laugh after laugh. Nearly everyone in The Watch has their moments to shine, it is Will Forte you will remember the most, and Ayoade is a close second. Thanks to Vaughn and Hill the plot cracks between when these characters are present, or given lines, the laughs continue.
The Watch's humor draws mostly from the negligence of the characters to realize what is actually going on in their town. As well as their feeble attempts to create a group to be feared by a would-be attacker. These men would not know a criminal if he came and confessed his crimes to them. Nor would they understand the importance of calling the authorities when they find a dead body, an alien, or a weapon that can blow up whole areas, animals, or anything. The Neighborhood Watch in The Watch is incompetent, much to the viewer's pleasure. But they will have their moment to save the world, and take down the Costco invaders. Invading Costco, what a dream. The Watch is not a great comedy, or a finely polished piece of comedic filmmaking. That aside, it is funny, and one would be hard pressed to not laugh throughout.
Comedy, Science Fiction
July 27, 2012