It’s been an increasing trend in the past few years as movie trailers have become more shameless and bloated but a common cry after seeing a movie is “The best parts were in the trailer!” Sadly, this refrain is true for The Watch but even more sad is the fact that those featured moments, the best-of if you will, were not even that good. The rest of the movie followed suit.
Upon its release this past summer, I inexplicably heard several mentions of Ghostbusters in comparison to this film in many reviews and even interviews with the crew. It’s not a stretch to connect the two films as both are dealing with supernatural forces in a somewhat realistic way. But while the rag-tag quartet of guys in Ghostbusters delivered laughs and genuine characters, the rag-tag quartet of The Watch features actors who think they are funny and genuine even though anyone else watching this will see through their ruse.
Ben Stiller seems to be falling into the ‘Vince Vaughn’ trap of movies by basically playing the same manic, controlling, slightly obsessive-compulsive character each time out. He stars as Evan, the manager of the local Costco and all around community-oriented guy, who starts up a neighborhood watch after some shenanigans at his store. His impassioned pleas for assistance are answered by Vince Vaughn (natch) as every other character he’s ever played, Jonah Hill as a more immature version of his 21 Jump Street character, and Richard Ayoade for some reason. Together, they discover that aliens are invading their town of Nowhere, Ohio and hijinks, supposedly I presume, ensue.
Now, I can get behind a movie that is merely a thin plot strewn together for the purposes of showcasing a group of actors’ talent. On page, the pairing of this group of actors is bound to produce some semblance of laughter or joy regardless of how inane the story is. Yet, in damn near every aspect, it falls as flat and lifeless as the alien being the fellows find and decide to take scandalous photos with.
To be fair, there are a few moments of decent comedy, some of which coming from Vince Vaughn himself, as the characters react to the “crazy” things happening around them. But the vast majority of the film seems merely a reason for these actors to get together and hang out rather than make anything entertaining for the rest of us. Countless moments and scenes of the movie are drawn out far beyond the point of being moderately funny as displayed by the final moment of every trailer as Stiller and Vaughn silently shoot an already deceased foe.
At the story level, Evan is dealing with infertility issues and Vince Vaughn has a rebellious teenage daughter in, I guess, an attempt to bring real issues to the table. But like the rest of the movie, these are so over-played and non consequential that the time spent on domestic issues may as well have been more fart and sex jokes. In watching, it almost feels like there was a script and real characters at some point but that was edited out because it drama doesn’t sell in a comedy.
This was either a thankless job for director Akiva Schaffer or one that he really enjoyed as he helmed his second feature film ever. I’m thinking it was the latter as even in a scenario with a barely passable script, the end result should have been greater. I now think though that the mark of a good comedic director is that the audience shouldn’t have to suffer which is something Schaffer should work on. And Costco should really revisit their marketing budget.