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The Watch (15)

Rachel Winterbottom scrutinizes this sci-fi comedy with her watchful eye

Published on September 4th 2012.

The Watch (15)

If Joe Cornish’s Attack the Block was set in American suburbia and pitted the middle class against hostile aliens wishing to exterminate humanity, it would still be better written than The Watch, a science fiction comedy with plenty of bodily fluids but very little blood.

Most of us can enjoy a good dick joke, but this is the film equivalent of a kid discovering it can make grownups laugh with a rude word and so repeats it ad infinitum until it loses all meaning.                            

Ben Stiller is local Costco manager Evan, founder of clubs and fanatical fan of his hometown, Glenview, Ohio. After the grisly death of Costco’s security guard, Evan decides to set up a neighbourhood watch to find the killer.

He enlists failed police recruit Franklin (Jonah Hill) who’s hoping it’s a vigilante squad, Bob (Vince Vaughn),a struggling father who wants to tear some shit up and recent divorcee Jamarcus (The IT Crowds’ Richard Ayoade), who has just moved from London and is hoping the watch will be a gateway to sex with hot women.

The WatchThe Watch   

Evan is hugely disappointed to realise that his new members are really looking for some time with the boys and aren’t taking his new taskforce seriously. However, they soon bond over stakeouts, run-ins with Glenview’s inept cops and dick jokes.

Things get strange when they accidentally hit an alien with their car whilst out on patrol and they discover an outlandish weapon that can be used to make cattle explode. As the local police are no help, the four are left to try to fight the aliens and protect the neighbourhood, and the world, by themselves.

Directed by Akiva Schaffer, whose previous work includes Saturday Night Live, The Watch’s concept-driven plot and simplistic characters might have survived scrutiny as a five-minute sketch but stretched to feature length, its flaws are as embarrassingly obvious as its use of innuendo.

Co-written by Superbad scripters Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogan, a film that had its crudity offset by a super sweet bromance and sharp dialogue, the same forgiving poignancy is missing from The Watch’s four-way bromance. Most of us can enjoy a good dick joke, but this is the film equivalent of a kid discovering it can make grownups laugh with a rude word and so repeats it ad infinitum until it loses all meaning.

The WatchThe Watch                

There are some attempts at pathos – Evan’s relationship with his wife, Bob’s father-daughter problems – but these are flimsy excuses for yet another scene involving somebody’s penis. Vaughn’s character Bob is almost likeable largely thanks to the subplot involving his daughter – the film’s main stab at characterisation. Unfortunately, Vaughn’s dedication to shouting the majority of his lines is so distracting it’s hard to focus on what he’s actually saying. Luckily, you can safely assume he’s making another reference to jizz.

And yet The Watch is still very funny in places. This is particularly thanks to Ayoade whose awkward British shtick sticks out of this all-American film like an unexpected but very welcome sore thumb. He might be just as lewd and gun-toting as the rest of the cast but he manages to do it with the same divine flair for comic timing that he uses in home-grown comedy.

The Watch is an unapologetically crude film and its science fiction element is more of an ongoing punch line rather than any real attempt at the genre. Get past the overreliance on certain parts of the male anatomy and you will enjoy this film for what it is: a bromance in arrested development.

Rating: 6/10

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