out of Five
Running time: 102
Lazily written, poorly directed and dismally unfunny comedy with unlikeable characters, lacklustre performances and a mean spirited script that completely wastes its central idea.
What's it all about?
Directed by Akiva Schaffer, The Watch stars Ben Stiller as Evan, the high-energy manager of a suburban superstore, who forms a neighbourhood watch group after the store's security guard is murdered in mysterious circumstances. Evan's fellow neighbourhood watchers include: motor-mouthed father Bob (Vince Vaughn), gun-loving weirdo Franklin (Jonah Hill) and amiable Brit Jemarcus (Richard Ayoade), but all three seem more interested in goofing off than in solving the brutal murder on their doorsteps.
However, things get more serious when further murders are committed and it turns out the killer is actually an alien and that shapeshifting creatures have already invaded Earth. Meanwhile, dim-witted local cops Sgt Bressman and Chucho (Will Forte and Mel Rodriguez) seem more concerned with monitoring Evan and friends than with anything actually murder-related, while Bob has his hands full trying to keep his eyes on his teenage daughter (Erin Moriarty) and her new boyfriend (Nicholas Braun).
Stiller, Vaughn, Hill and Ayoade are all established comic talents but none of them are on top form here and they never really either gel together or spark off each other as a group. The lacklustre performances aren't helped by the fact that the characters are actively unlikeable, particularly in Hill's case: his obnoxious character doesn't have a single redeeming quality and his behaviour goes uncommented on by everyone around him.
The script is incredibly lazy throughout and barely even bothers to engage with its own premise; for example, in a script involving shapeshifting aliens posing as humans, you would expect there to be a lot of jokes where the neighbourhood watch become suspicious of all their neighbours, but that promising idea gets reduced to a gag involving Evan's weirdly sleazy neighbour (Billy Crudup) and is then ignored.
The script also shoe-horns in a pointless subplot about Evan struggling to tell his wife (Rosemarie DeWitt, the best thing in the film) that he's sterile, which is meant to be moving, but feels out of place and carries no emotional impact.
The main problem with the film is the painful lack of laughs throughout, with all the gags either mean spirited, misjudged, poorly timed (Vaughn's delivery seems weirdly off) or doing gross-out for gross-out's sake (e.g. saying that the alien goo “tastes like cum”) without any follow through. There's also an appalling amount of product placement, so much so that the film occasionally feels like a feature length advert for the superstore in question.
This is a lazily written, poorly thought-out comedy that doesn't deliver a single actual laugh and refuses to engage with any of its potentially interesting ideas. A complete waste of time.