It turns out The Watch got absolutely hosed by critics, having landed with only 17 percent at Rotten Tomatoes. That’s two percent lower than the repugnant Adam Sandler film Just Go With It, for those scoring at home. It’s hard to reason out how Rotten Tomatoes works, but it takes a bit of work to consider The Watch a worse film than Sandler’s tripe.
Directed by Akiva Schaffer and written by Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen and Jared Stern, The Watch’s biggest problem is that it tries to do too much. It features a solid group of comedic actors in lead roles and even manages some halfway decent special effects, but its sideways trips through aliens, parenting difficulties, suburban wish fulfilment, ample product placements, and delightfully rude comedy take a bit of getting used to.
The film opens in Glenview, Ohio. It’s one of those small, nondescript towns where everybody probably knows everybody. Ben Stiller plays Evan Trautwig, a community-minded man who is the senior manager of the local Costco. He loves his job and is the sort of man who prides himself on how nice is he to others. His self-congratulatory ass is married to Abby (Rosemarie DeWitt).
After another Costco employee is brutally murdered, Evan elects to start up yet another club: the neighbourhood watch. He announces his intentions and is joined by construction worker Bob (Vince Vaughn), cop reject Franklin (Jonah Hill) and British divorcee Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade). It doesn’t take long for the neighbourhood watch to not only bond but get to the mysterious bottom of the Costco killing.
Each character brings his own issues to the table, which draws the group even closer together. Bob, for instance, is struggling with his daughter (Erin Moriarty) and doesn’t approve of her brash boyfriend (Nicholas Braun). Bob enlists members of the neighbourhood watch, especially Franklin, to help him out with his predicament. The situation comes to a head when he invades a high school party.
Evan, meanwhile, has problems of his own. It turns out that he’s using his various neighbourhood organizations as excuses to postpone confronting some of his actual issues. These come to a head in a typically sitcom way and the resolution of said issues is pretty tidy, even by film standards, but they provide just enough layers to get the audience to care about the characters.
For the most part, The Watch is a one-liner extravaganza. The natural flow the performers have with each other leads to many seemingly open-ended interactions. Vaughn is especially adept at this, with his everyday style giving his lines a sense of pop. His interactions with Stiller and Hill feel genuine. Ayoade, for all his excellent work on The IT Crowd, has the most trouble fitting in despite some pretty funny moments.
The Watch is unfussy entertainment. It is a rude and crude comedy and it makes no apologies for its litany of dick and orgy jokes. It is a silly film, complete with a little unexpected graphic violence and an amusing appearance by the one and only R. Lee Ermey. It’s not a smart comedy and it doesn’t have any deeper meaning. But for what it is, it’s not at all as bad as they say.