Movie Review: The Watch (2012)

20th Century Fox
Runtime: 1 hour, 42 minutes
Rated: R (for some strong sexual content, including reference, language, and
violent images)
Director: Akiva Schaffer
Writers: Jared Stern, Seth Rogen
Starring: Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill
Comedy | Sci-fi

Because of a recent media circus on one tragedy in particular, saying you are part of a neighborhood watch may not strike good cords these days—all the more so is this true if you happen to be a half-ass-ing responsibility-dodger like any one of the four men in The Watch.

“Evan” (Ben Stiller) is General Manager of Costco in Glenview, Ohio, and in addition to being a club-starting “people person” and activist, when a gruesome murder occurs at his store, he decides to start a neighborhood watch.

Answering this call to volunteer duty is “Bob” (Vince Vaughn), a guy who loves his drinks and can’t get along with his teenaged daughter (Erin Moriarity) to save his life. And then there is “Franklin” (Jonah Hill), a police academy flunk-ee who has all sorts of issues going on, but wants to bring his self-described “awesome” skills and determination to the effort. And finally, we have “Jamarcus” (Richard Ayoade), a tall, well-spoken UK man who obviously is just a good neighbor wanting to help out and nothing more.

The local police are headed up by “Sergeant Bressman” (Will Forte) who is suspicious of Evan and continues to be as this makeshift neighborhood watch effort becomes increasingly bogged down with the foursome’s buffoonery—buffoonery that is funny and will lead them to the discovery of otherworldly visitors who have arrived to take over planet earth beginning in their fine community.

I don’t know if I should laugh harder at the film calling anywhere in Ohio a particularly “diverse” place or the endless plugs for Costco that keep coming right at us the entire film, but I know that The Watch is in that class of not-too-hard-to-forget movies that do induce a good amount of laughter, despite the fact that they don’t accomplish much else.

To be fair, most of that laughter is won by references to sex and smut, thrown-around profanity, and other disgusting ploys, all mixed with the ingredients of something you’d catch on the Sci-fi network.

The Watch is another of your typical “bro-mance” comedies where the gags always outweigh any wit that is offered up, but where the resonating chemistry of the cast kindly gets us back into the humor once we find ourselves starting to fall out of it. What is delivered to us is a story that is never taken seriously – and it shouldn’t be – with stars that are versatile enough to “shoot da shit” and be damn funny doing so with the appeal increasing the more we dive into the heads of the characters.

For Evan, the Watch is not just an obsession, but another opportunity for a rather unlikable person to avoid having to spend time with his wife and communicate on issues that matter. Franklin has anger (and mommy) issues. And despite being a generally unenlightened motor-mouth, Bob can actually be onto something once in a while.

Jamarcus doesn’t seem to fit in at all, and when we learn why, it is yet another reason of how the film offers a lot of the little things to like, even if they don’t make much sense. Evan’s neighbor (Billy Crudup) is trying to have sex with him and just about anything not nailed down. So we may as well say that things aren’t right in Glenview as opposed to saying they’re weird because nearly everyone in The Watch is weird (and in some strange way, makes everyone else play their parts better).

The Watch is a low-functioning effort that required little on the part of its performers lending their talents for it to be called a success. In that regard, it got a bit more than it needed or deserved, but still doesn’t exactly zoom past the finish line.