Four adult male suburbanites form a neighborhood watch to protect their beloved town of Glenview, Ohio, from a vicious murderer who peels the skin off the bones and muscles of victims. People with weak stomachs: don’t be scared off by this plot point. It’s a grisly Hannibal Lecter-type cog in the plot machine of director Akiva Schaffer’s The Watch, but the film’s first priority is to be a silly and uproarious buddy comedy. So if you’re not looking for a blood splattering time at the cinema, you can still buy a ticket for The Watch. There’s still blood, and it does splatter, but there are many laughs to be had in between the gory scenes.
Now, back to the skin-peeling psychopath. It’s unsettling for the gentlemen of the Neighborhood Watch to know that such a savage being walks their sun-splashed streets. Before long, they discover that the killer is from outer space, making a stressful situation mind-boggling. Especially on the edge is Evan (Ben Stiller). The first murder took place at the local Costco, where he works as a senior manager. Evan is the kind of guy who bleeds hometown red and is willing to get into debates about where the county lines run, just to show you how much land in Glenview he has to love.
Evan’s also organized. He plans to run the Neighborhood Watch with the discipline of a strict grade school teacher in their thirtieth year. But the other three members of the group are harder to handle than a batch of fourth graders. There’s Bob (Vince Vaughn), a construction manager and struggling dad; Franklin (Jonah Hill), a high-school dropout and police officer reject with baggage; and Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade), a recently divorced black Brit. While Evan wants to read the rulebook and run patrols, the other guys would rather kick back in the confines of Bob’s man cave and drink some cold beverages.
The Watch has a solid comedy line-up that looks good on paper and on the screen. The four Watchmen (See what I did there, Alan Moore fans?) give off a natural buddy vibe. It’s like watching real friends hang out and be organically funny. Stiller has the lead man reigns and does a fine job, but I was more fascinated with Vaughn’s performance. He’s given a slightly more manic role than his usual laid-back, I-don’t-give-a-damn-and-I’m-loving-it roles, and it’s fun to see him flex his acting boundaries. Hill, in total supporting character mode, gets credit for evoking the most laughs with his weird statements and personality disorder.
The Watch is a genre mash-up for sure. Screenwriters Jared Stern, Seth Rogen, and Evan Goldberg combine common buddy comedy situations like beer drinking and stakeouts with science fiction staples such as scheming, slimy aliens. The mix doesn’t go down smooth every scene. There are action scenes that aren’t as thrilling as they could be because it seems like none of Schaffer’s characters are capable of being in true danger. After looking back at the 102 minutes my butt was parked in front of The Watch, though, I think it’s worth a look for fans of Seth Rogen-type comedies. You know, the ones with vulgar language, gross-out gags, and enough sexual references to keep an adult bookstore stocked for two weeks. The humor revels in its R-rating. My jaw hurt from laughing after the movie, so I didn’t mind one bit.
I give The Watch 4 stars out of 5, a B.
The Watch is rated R, has a runtime of 1 hour and 40 minutes, and was given a wide release in the United States on July 27, 2012.