MOVIE REVIEW: The Watch

Geek Syndicate takes a look at the latest Ben Stiller movie The Watch.

The Watch is Akiva Shaffer’s (one-third of comedy rap group The Lonely Island and SNL fame) directorial debut;  as a debut goes, it could have been worse, with plenty of promise. The film is funny, often crude and unashamedly stupid, but not always in a good way.

The film stars Ben Stiller as straight man Evan, who’s ‘shooting blanks’ and is struggling to tell his wife. As an outlet for his frustrations, he starts up a ridiculous amount of local groups, including various running clubs and even a Seniors’ Spanish group.

He’s also manager of the local Costco and when one of his employees, a night security guard, is killed in a gruesome fashion by an unknown assailant, he is spurred into creating a neighbourhood watch (due in part to the ineptitude of the local police force, which includes a hilarious turn by Will Forte).

The only guys who show up to the recruitment evening are Bob (Vince Vaughn at his sardonic best), Franklin (Jonah Hill in cuddly sociopath mode) and Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade playing the adorable bumbling Brit) These guys just want to hang out , shoot pool and drink beer,  so when this lumbering group of idiots accidentally happen upon an alien invasion plot and are subsequently the world’s only hope of survival…we seem pretty doomed.

The screenplay from Seth Rogan, Evan Goldberg and Jared Stern feels like it thinks it’s much funnier than it actually is and, well…they really like dick jokes.

There’s also an obvious difference between the scripted and improvised scenes, and it’s with the obviously improvised dialogue where the film really falters. Akiva lets his big name stars go off on tangents that just aren’t funny at times and drags out jokes for far too long (see the ‘should we dress Franklin up as a woman and let him get buggered’ scene), but overall his direction is strong if a little stagnant at times.

The Watch boasts some impressive comedy talent in top form here at times, despite the slightly weak script. Ben Stiller doesn’t get to partake in jokes as much as the other three, but he plays uptight very well, while Vince Vaughn is also in familiar territory with forked-tongued Bob as the foil to Stiller’s straight laced Evan.

Jonah Hill gets to have some fun as wannabe tough guy Franklin, who likes playing with knives and has one of the most amazing under-mattress stashes you’ll see in any film.

Richard Ayoade’s Jamarcus is the stand-out of the three, playing it cute but very filthy-minded. It’s a shame that he’s cast as the token ‘Brit with a funny accent who doesn’t get US lifestyles’ as he’s clearly capable of so much more than that… let’s be honest, Jamarcus is just Moss from UK sitcom The IT Crowd shipped over to the USA and given a lust for sexual activity.

The supporting cast are also impressive. Will Forte plays the sarcastic and utterly useless Sergeant Bressman, a character full of bad cop show clichés, while Billy Crudup has a brilliant cameo role as Ben Stiller’s creepy neighbour with a penchant for men’s fitness.

Ben Stiller’s wife Abby, played by likeable Rosemarie DeWitt, isn’t portrayed as a braying nag; she comes across as pretty understanding and funny. She even gets to use a gun! Huzzah!

Overall The Watch is enjoyable, despite some scenes dragging. The chemistry between the cast makes the film and they clearly had a great time filming it, with some of the best scenes coming from their ability to riff off one another and take the horror out of the situation through mundane musings. It’s just a shame that didn’t transfer quite so well to the big screen, but it’s certainly worth checking out if you want a few debased chuckles without having to really engage the brain.

Rating:3/ 5
GS Reviewer: Sara Westrop

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