1 out of 5
Sloppily crafted, juvenilely written and way too penis-centric, The Watch is not saved by the comedic talents of its actors. This is one of the worst movies of the year, made even more disappointing by the modicum of good ideas present in the script.
The Watch has been floating around Hollywood for some time. From a screenplay written by Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and Jared Stern (the former two of which also wrote Pineapple Express and Superbad), The Watch began development in 2008 under the supervision of Shawn Levy, resident Hollywood hack behind the Steve Martin Pink Panther movies and the Night at the Museum films. Originally the film was going to be pitched at a teenage audience, but after Rogen and Goldberg rewrote the script it became more of an ‘adult’ comedy. One wonders how much more juvenile this thing could get, but we’ll get to that in a moment…
The film’s release was stalled about a year ago when neighbourhood watch George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin, as the studio wanted to avoid being accused of exploiting for its own financial gain the high-profile story of an apparently unscrupulous (to say the least) neighbourhood watch officer. The film — which was originally named The Neighbourhood Watch — was renamed The Watch because the studios thought that no one would notice, I guess.
What’s it about?
Evan Trautwig (Ben Stiller) is a community leader of a small-town who founds any number of local ‘clubs’ to feel connected with his fellow human beings. He manages the local Costco (a store that shamelessly product-places all throughout this movie), and is seemingly happily married to Abby (Rosemarie DeWitt). After a Costco security guard is murdered, Even is deeply disturbed, and forms a neighbourhood watch with Bob (Vince Vaughn), a construction worker with a man-cave to die for, Franklin (Jonah Hill), a wannabe cop who failed the mental stability test, and Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade from The IT Crowd), a recent divorcee.
Evan is the only member of the group to take The Watch seriously, as the three others take time to drink and have some male bonding. The group are forced to co-operate and take things seriously when they discover what looks suspiciously like an alien plot to destroy Earth with roots in their (surprisingly affluent, recession-proof) little town.
Is it any good?
The Watch is one of the worst films of the year, despite some promising beginnings. There is a definite Ghostbusters feel to the early scenes of the formation of The Watch, and the four principal leads have decent chemistry in many of their scenes together. The movie’s narrative lurches from one point to another unnaturally. This movie’s plot is painfully forced. Akiva Schaeffer is a first-time feature director who to date has spent his time writing songs, and directing music videos for, the Lonely Island troupe (Dick in a Box, I Just Had Sex). Those songs are funny, and are bearable in three or four-minute doses. But The Watch, as directed by Schaeffer, is just as juvenile as a Lonely Island song, this time blown up to feature length, with little regard for smooth storytelling. I would have been far more interested to see the direction in which someone like Ivan Reitman or Harold Ramis would have taken this material.
The Watch is also produced by Shawn Levy, who might be the least inspired film-maker in the industry. No offense meant to him, but his films (The Pink Panther, Night at the Museum, Real Steel) are designed to sell tickets, not to be artistic works. There is a place for that. I tend not to prefer his films, and The Watch has the same insipidness of his other work. As science-fiction, this is a soft as you can get. The aliens are unimaginatively designed and have no convincing motivation for destroying us after travelling hundreds (possibly thousands) of light years across the universe.
I’m hardly a prude, but the male penis is the fulcrum of The Watch in a way that, by the end of the film, I could not abide… This movie isn’t awful because it is rude, although it is rude and incredibly vulgar, so much so that it distracts rather than enhances the comedy. This movie is just stupid.
Forge the science-fiction, though. The humour in this film wore me down, after providing several belly-laughs in its opening twenty minutes or so. I’m hardly a prude, but the male penis is the fulcrum of The Watch in a way that, by the end of the film, I could not abide. The characters are insecure because of their penises. They spend scene after scene talking about penises, both their own and those belonging to others. The aliens seem to be obsessed with the human penis. The penis also has a link to the aliens’ physiology that beggars belief, and opens up opportunities for even more penis jokes in the film’s disappointing, shoot-em-up final act. This movie isn’t awful because it is rude, although it is rude and incredibly vulgar, so much so that it distracts rather than enhances the comedy. This movie is just stupid. I strongly advise not to waste your time on it.
And another thing
The blatant promotion of Costco in this movie cost it a star. Product placement has become acceptable in recent years after being out of favour in the public’s eye for quite a long time. Movies are not advertisements – they are outlets from reality, to either distract us from the banalities and difficulties of everyday life, or to make us feel more able to face them. Sometimes both. Films should be sacred places, free from Gruen Transfers and (commercial) psychological manipulation. Corporations get their chance to promote their product before the film begins – leave us alone during the movie, would you?