Title: The Watch
Wasn't This Originally Called Neighborhood Watch? Yes, but in a typical act of corporate ass-covering, Fox changed the name following the shooting of Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watch captain Charles Zimmerman. Because otherwise people would think Martin was an extraterrestial.
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant to the Film: One and a half Trojan Magnums out of five.
Brief Plot Synopsis: Local do-gooder forms neighborhood watch group in wake of friend's murder, discovers alien invasion plot.
Tagline: "Got protection?"
Better Tagline: "People on 'ludes should not write."
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Evan Trautwig (Ben Stiller) is your average, mild-mannered suburban Ohio Costco manager. He's also a bit socially maladroit, and forms lots of clubs because he has no friends. When an employee is murdered in his store, he puts together a neighborhood watch group consisting of the only four people to answer his call to action: irresponsible Bob (Vince Vaughn), creepy Franklin (Jonah Hill) and...British Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade). What starts as a weekly diversion becomes something more sinister when the group uncovers evidence of a plot by aliens to invade Earth, centered right there in their idyllic Ohio burg.
"Critical" Analysis: Complacency is as big a problem in Hollywood as anywhere else. Just as longtime spouses can fall into depressingly familiar patterns and employees may become dangerously comfortable in non-challenging positions, so too do studios tend to stick with proven properties and talent, however predictable or formulaic they've become.
Ben Stiller has been kicking around since the early '90s (The Ben Stiller Show), and while one would be foolish to argue that having showbiz parents (Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara) didn't give him a leg up, his box-office track record since roughly Meet the Parents has been solid. It's therefore a no-brainer that the guy would continue to top-line comedies.
Of course, it used to be the case that other things would (usually) go into a movie besides a couple big names. I'm not one of these nostalgia freaks that would have you believe there was some mythic bygone age when quality reigned supreme, because profit has always driven studio output. It just feels lately like a lot more movies these days begin life as a throwaway idea at a marathon bong session between co-writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg.
The "Not So Brief Plot Synopsis" of The Watch could just as easily have read: "dick joke, dick joke, gay joke, dick joke, piss joke, gangsta rap gag done better 13 years ago in Office Space, Andy Samberg cameo, dick joke." The variety of references to male genitalia and how they can best be utilized is truly staggering, but stops being funny around the 15-minute mark. Then again, without them you'd barely have enough material to fill a sitcom, much less a feature film.
And they never end. Every gag scene goes on for at least a minute longer than necessary. It's not enough that the four guys decide to pose for candid photos with an alien corpse (don't ask), but let's also simulate sex. Then cunnilingus. Then anal sex. Every gag lingers on well past the period where people will bother to laugh, and at the screening I attended, the laughter could be described as "polite" at best.
Finally, what the hell is Richard Ayoade in this? The star of The IT Crowd and Garth Marenghi's Darkplace -- among many others -- seems completely out of place, and not because of his complexion, but because he's the only one who's not sleepwalking through his scenes. I'm conflicted, because I'm happy the guy is going to enjoy some well-deserved success over here, but I also fear for his immortal soul. What's next, the buddy role in the new Adam Sandler flick?
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And he wasn't even the first choice. Chris "I've Made Three Movies Since 1998 And They All Have Rush Hour In The Title" Tucker was almost cast as Jamarcus. Holy crap, would that have been terrible.
The only other bright spots are provided by supporting players, most notably an uncredited Billy Crudup as Evan's distinctly creepy new neighbor. Beyond that, the gags are obvious, the plot half-baked (probably literally), and Stiller and Vaughn have played some variation of their characters a hundred times apiece (Vaughn is now officially the Jack Nicholson of moron comedies), while Hill's Franklin is more or less a grown-up Seth from Superbad.
The Watch is in theaters now. And Garth Marenghi's Darkplace is on Netflix Streaming. Just saying.