After a 3rd shift security guard gets murdered, the manager of the store (Ben Stiller) he worked at decides to start a neighborhood watch. He attracts a ragtag crew of volunteers to join him, including a family man looking for some “Me Time” (Vince Vaughn), a psycho cop wanna-be (Jonah Hill) and a newcomer to the area who’s hoping to meet some ladies (Richard Ayoade). They set out to find the killer, but what they find is much, much worse.
Their town has been invaded by aliens.
It’s a premise with promise, but the material fails to deliver much. Worse yet, the stars, who are going to be the reason that most people show up for this, completely fail to show up.
Evan Trautwig (Ben Stiller) is the manager of a local Costco, and an over-involved community member. He’s started a number of clubs, gets involved volunteering his time with community service, and sits on the town council, albeit in a ludicrously unimportant position. When his overnight security guard is killed and skinned while on the job, and the cops who respond are obviously inept, he’s motivated to start a volunteer neighborhood watch program in order to try to find the killer. Volunteer turnout is low however, and to say that he didn’t exactly attract top-tier talent would be an understatement. Bob (Vince Vaughn) is a married man with a teen daughter who obviously doesn’t have enough time to himself. He’s hoping to get a few nights a week to drink some beers and hang out with the guys out of the deal. Franklin (Jonah Hill) couldn’t make it as a cop, and now is looking for an outlet for his hostility. Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade) is new to the neighborhood and is looking to meet some people, mainly of the female persuasion.
Their first foray is a stakeout of the Costco where the murder happened, which turns into an excuse to drink beer in the car. They do soon bust up a gang of kids throwing eggs… at them. But when their car accidentally hits an alien, they become the only people who are aware their town’s been invaded, and thus the only people capable of stopping the invasion.
There’s potential in the material, here, but it’s nowhere close to being realized. Instead of focusing on the comedy that could surround coming into contact with Aliens, the movie seems to focus instead on the comedy coming from the characters… Stiller’s anal retentive schtick, Vaughn’s rapid talking smarmy persona, Hill’s new “tough guy”, and Ayoade… who I honestly still kind of don’t know what he was supposed to be bringing to the table. There are a couple of scenes that do focus on the discovery of the aliens, and that IS where the movie has its high points. The scene where the discover the laser weapon is very funny (although its been shown in nearly its entirety in the trailers), as is the scene where they pose the dead alien for pictures. Unfortunately “The Watch” spends most of its time trying to be funny by showing these characters interacting with each other.
Which wouldn’t have been that huge an issue, in spite of the fact that Vaughn and Stiller are playing characters they’ve played 100 times each. In “The Watch”, however, it’s as if Vaughn and Stiller decided to test the maxim “they could do that in their sleep” by actually playing these characters in their sleep. Auto-pilot is an understatement. If these two were any more inert in their performances, they’d be wax statues. Neither one of them seems to have a second of honest fun playing these parts, and it shows. They come across as disinterested and begrudging, we’re given a complete and utter minimal effort from both of them.
Will Forte is genuinely funny as the cop who couldn’t care less, and even though I don’t get him, I think Ayoade was trying at least. There are also a couple of legitimately funny scenes and or/moments sparsely scattered about. The rest of the time, however, “The Watch” treats us to a concept that doesn’t reach its potential, starring actors who don’t give it their all.