Another Look at ‘The Watch’

 

DIR: Akiva Schaffer • WRI: Jared Stern, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg • PRO: Shawn Levy, Tom McNulty • DOP: Barry Peterson • ED: Dean Zimmerman • DES: Doug J. Meerdink • CAST: Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, Richard Ayoade

Evn (Stiller) lives in a perfect town in middle America. He works as a manager at bulk buy heaven CostCo, is a member of a running club, and things seem perfect – until he comes to work one day to learn that his night time Security Guard has been hideously murdered, and the only clue is some nasty green goo.

Determined to find the killer, he blankets the town with flyers to set up a neighborhood watch group, but only Bob (Vaughn), Franklin (Hill) and Jamarcus (Ayoade from The IT Crowd and The Mighty Boosh; he makes a decent Hollywood debut here) turn up to the meeting. They all thought it was just a cover idea to get drunk and hang out, but Evan perseveres with these idiots, but as they’re driving home from their first case – the ‘capture’ of a skateboarder teen who egged them all – they hit something. Something big that leaves tentacles and green goo behind…

Nearby they find a strange globe that blows shit up, but then later it gets even stranger when they’re called by Manfred (R. Lee Ermey – some of you remember him as the shouty Sergeant in Full Metal Jacket) and find something hiding in his back garden: a giant, toothy Predator-like alien who has just finished disemboweling and eating Manfred.

Evan saves the day though, hitting the beast with a flowerpot and causing it to fall and break its neck. They take it back to Bob’s wicked basement/man cave, swear eternal secrecy, and then party like the film and Hello! magazine rights have already been sold. But this bad boy isn’t dead yet, and he escapes; it seems like he’s getting ready to summon his friends and launch an invasion of earth – starting in our special town. And the boys of the Neighbourhood Watch can’t allow that…

As you might be able to tell, this seems like a bit of an odd set-up. Comedy, comedy certainly – there’s plenty of bawdy humour, gross gags and endless improvisation (especially from Vaughn, who is always a laugh) – but too often you keep thinking: ‘Wait. Aren’t there aliens going round the town butchering people and taking their skin? Shouldn’t you be doing something about that?’

When the end turns into a full-on special effects alien rampage, the guys with their guns blazing as they try to stop the invasion, all the forced, out-of-place family drama and emotional stuff – and most of the schoolboy smut and The Hangover-style vibe – really seems at odds with what you’re seeing. Films with a story like this usually don’t need to go there, so overall this is neither blood nor goo, as if it couldn’t help itself (or didn’t know how to do just one thing well) – and the rather unpleasant racist overtone I seemed to detect a few times didn’t help either.

Also, this film was actually originally titled ‘Neighborhood Watch’ and had issued posters and trailers called that, but then changed it/moved the release date after a young black kid was controversially shot by a Neighbourhood Watch member in Florida.

Now that films are further under the spotlight (temporarily or not) in the light of the Colorado cinema shootings, to see these characters shooting the dead body of an alien over and over again for comedic effect does make for an uncomfortable moment or two.

James Bartlett 

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
102 mins

The Watch is released on 24th August 2012

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