When I saw the first trailer for The Watch it was still called Neighborhood Watch and I honestly don’t remember it having anything to do with an alien invasion. But since the Florida shooting of Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman, the filmmakers chose to change the movie’s name and focus more on the sci-fi aspects of the film, at least in the marketing of the movie.
So The Watch actually ended up being a lot different than what I initially thought it was going to be; and that’s a good thing. The story starts off pretty bland with a focus on community do-gooder and Costco manager Evan (Ben Stiller) going about his mundane life in the suburban town of Glenview, Ohio. But about 15 minutes into the film it takes a sharp turn and earns a hardcore R-rating for gore, profanity, nudity, sexual situations and adult-themed humor.
A night security guard is gruesomely killed inside of Evan’s Costco and because he feels the police are not taking the situation serious enough, he coordinates a neighborhood watch effort in order to protect the community and track down the killer.
Unfortunately, the only people that show up to support Evan’s watch program are Bob (Vince Vaughn), a construction manager who is just interested in hanging with the boys; Franklin (Jonah Hill), a rejected police candidate wannabe-badass who still lives with his mother; and Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade) who is newly divorced and, well, just very strange.
I had never heard of actor/writer Richard Ayoade before, but apparently he is a well-known star of British television comedies. He holds his own in this film with big-name American comedians and in fact Ayoade and Hill carry his movie. I have a low tolerance of Vince Vaughn’s arrogant energy and Stiller has seen better days, but overall these four do a pretty good job of playing off of each other.
The four misfits do more playing than ‘watching’ at first, but eventually settle in to trying to stake out the Costco killer. In misadventures along the way they encounter crazy cops (Will Forte), creepy neighbors (Billy Crudup and the Lonely Island boys from SNL) and an irate farmer played by R. Lee Ermey in a hilarious but small part.
Eventually the foursome uncover the terrible truth lying beneath the surface of Glenview, that the small town is the center-point for an alien invasion of Earth and it’s up to the imbeciles to save the planet – and this is where the movie really starts to be a lot of fun.
The first draft of this film was written by Jared Stern (Mr. Popper’s Penguins), but it was reworked and rewritten by Seth Rogen (Superbad) and Evan Goldberg and you can easily feel where Rogen tweaked it into something cruder and funnier than it started out to be.
A warning – this movie is NOT for children, the humor ranges from mild Ben Stiller silly (Night at the Museum) to all-out Vince Vaughn crude (Old School), but with more emphasis on the off-color schoolyard style jokes. While some of this is just mildly amusing and juvenile, much of it, like the unique way in which the aliens must be killed, is hilarious.
There are plenty of product placements in this movie and in fact the Costco store chain plays a big part in the film. I’m astonished that the wholesome family warehouse retailer has their name attached to such a rude & crude adult-themed film; and although I am usually incredibly irritated by subliminal advertising in films, I have to admit that some of the Costco jokes in this movie were actually pretty funny.
While this movie has its own history of having to be self-censored due to tragic events in the real world, it was a pleasure to watch this film with enough laughs and enjoyable escapism to take a little of the edge off of reality. The Watch takes a while to get going and to find its stride, but once it gets there it is certainly worth watching. Grade: 7/10
Original ‘Neighborhood Watch’ trailer with no aliens.
Updated alien-heavy ‘The Watch’ trailer.