The Watch (2012)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Alien Film, Sci-Fi Comedy  |   Release Date - Jul 27, 2012 (USA)  |   Run Time - 102 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Jason Buchanan

The aliens may be not of this Earth, but the jokes in this lifeless sci-fi comedy are so lazy they never even manage to lift off as a group of suburbanites fight off an impending alien invasion in The Watch. But even the desperate boredom of the four alien-hunting neighborhood watchmen can't hold a candle to the tedium that radiates from the screen as jokes repeatedly drop with a resounding thud, and the tired cast struggles to inject some momentum into a depressingly bland screenplay by Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Justin Theroux, and Jared Stern. It all has the whiff of a project that Rogen and Goldberg whipped up during an adolescent caffeine binge, only to dust off and serve to the studio on a silver platter once their stars were on the rise.

Costco manager Evan Trautwig (Ben Stiller) is a good boss, so when the night watchman at his Glenview, Ohio, store is torn limb from limb, he vows to catch the killer. When local cops Sgt. Bressman (Will Forte) and Chucho (Mel Rodriguez) fail to come up with any leads, Evan starts a Neighborhood Watch group with his neighbors Bob (Vince Vaughn), Franklin (Jonah Hill), and Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade). Unfortunately, his three deputies prove more interested in escaping their families and drinking than hunting down a killer, but after a strange incident on a quiet country road, the foursome stumble across evidence that aliens have come to Glenview. Later, a terrifying close encounter confirms their worst fears -- that the extraterrestrial invaders have taken the form of their friends and neighbors, and they're biding their time awaiting the perfect moment to strike. Now, with the invasion imminent, the same guys the entire town once mocked may be their only hope for stopping the enemy within, and saving the entire human race.

It's difficult to determine precisely where and how The Watch went so horribly awry -- with its cross-generational comedy cast, playful sci-fi concept, and improv attitude, it had all the components of a minor comedy hit. It's likely that the cast had a blast while shooting the film; unfortunately this is one of those cases where the fun doesn't translate to the audience. Everyone here seems to be on schtick auto-pilot: Stiller is playing his patented uptight act to the hilt; Vaughn's motor-mouth seems to be powered by rocket fuel even though his character rarely has anything interesting to say; and Hill comes off as little more than a recycled version of writer Rogen's disgruntled police-force reject from Observe and Report. Even emerging talent Ayoade is given little to do for most of the movie other than riff on his socially awkward character from The IT Crowd. And though no one would fault any comic actor for finding their niche and sticking to it, the only chemistry happening onscreen is of the vinegar-and-baking-soda variety. Not even Forte -- fast emerging as one of the most dependable supporting players in comedy -- can steer this speeding train away from the cliff. With mere minutes of screen time, he's easily the most memorable thing about The Watch.

Rogen, Goldberg, Theroux, and Stern's screenplay, meanwhile, feels more like a string of loosely connected episodes haphazardly cobbled together than a cohesive story: entire subplots are inexplicably resolved without so much as a brief explanation; seemingly crucial events are completely forgotten until throwaway lines late in the film; and in between we're subjected to interminable scenes that service the main plot, but never quite propel the story forward with any real sense of momentum. If you're in the mood for a 100-minute Costco commercial featuring severe extraterrestrial genital trauma, The Watch may be right up your alley; if you're looking for a few laughs at the movies, however, this DOA sci-fi comedy is bound to disappoint.