The Watch

What it's about:

When one of his employees is brutally killed, the manager of a store decides to start up a neighbourhood watch with three other members of his community with the intention of catching the killer. But it becomes clear that their perp might not even be from Earth.

What we thought:

The Watch is the latest addition to that family of films that attempts to marry supernatural fantasy to comedic hijinks. It is a marriage that has borne some successful fruit (Ghostbusters, Men in Black) but, admittedly, there have also been a few bad apples (Evolution, Ghostbusters II). Unfortunately, The Watch falls into the latter category of that family.

This kind of film needs a canny director who knows how to make audiences laugh without undermining the threat of the supernatural aspect. That The Watch manages neither is as much the fault of a poorly plotted script with a low gag count as it is the fault of lacklustre direction from Akiva Schaffer.

Where Ghostbusters had an appealing charm and zest about it, The Watch opts instead for crude humour and vulgarity. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll laugh like a drain at a skillfully deployed potty joke (and with this film’s over-reliance on the word "penis" and its variations, potty is just what you’ll get). But humour, vulgar or otherwise, requires keen timing and a sense of judgement, both of which of are sorely lacking from this film.

The Watch throws out naughty words as if the mere mention of genitalia were enough to have audiences rolling in the aisles. It isn’t, quite frankly, and the film’s dependence on largely one kind of humour becomes wearing and tiresome.

You’d expect that the first meeting of the film’s protagonists could be funny but you’d be wrong. That happens, desperately trying for humour, but not producing much. Perhaps the team’s first night on the prowl might be mined for some humour. Wrong again. They spend the night in an SUV, spouting inane dialogue and then rush off to catch a misbehaving teenager.

Again, nothing really funny happens here. It’s not like there wasn’t an opportunity to make something really interesting from the premise. Exploring what lay beneath the attractive surface of sunny suburbia is one direction the film might have taken, with or without the alien angle.

It would help if the cast were any good but, for the most part, they aren’t. Vaughn mugs desperately but just comes off as loud and obnoxious; Jonah Hill has only one layer to his character and that is grating idiocy while Stiller, lumbered with the role of the straight man, makes virtually no impression whatsoever.

It’s The IT Crowd’s Richard Ayoade who makes the best impression, his goofy charm and light touch providing a welcome change from the otherwise annoyingly abrasive humour.

The Watch isn’t a dreadful film, just a bad one. The first two acts are marginally interesting, and things do kick up a notch come the third act. But it is a film that is woefully short on actual comedy.

You’ll chuckle on occasion, smirk at a few jokes and then spend the rest of the time waiting, hoping, praying perhaps for something funny (or anything of actual interest) to happen.

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