Sometimes you just need an escape. Film critics rarely talk about this, while the occasional movie fan speaks about this all of the time. You don't want to think. You don't want to analyze. You just want a good time. Well, The Watch is for you. Ben Stiller stays true to form, Jonah Hill tries out something new, Vince Vaughn is having fun, and Richard Ayoade is, well ... different.
The premise is that Evan (Stiller) is a suburban overachiever. He looks for every opportunity to start a club, and loves his management position at Costco. When one of his employees is murdered, Evan decides this isn't a job for the police, and forms a neighborhood-watch program. That's where Bob (Vaughn); Franklin (Hill), the angry one; and Jamarcus (Ayoade), the odd one; come in to play. They're the only ones willing to join the fight. They just don't realize what they're getting in to.
Do you recall The Watch originally being titled Neighborhood Watch? They decided to change the title because they didn't want people to form an association with the February 26 Trayvon Martin shooting. The film's tone has absolutely nothing to do with that tragedy, but "neighborhood watch" is said roughly 4,592 times during the course of the movie. It doesn't seem anything has been changed, except the title. Besides just trying to be a good time, the underlining theme of The Watch is men claiming their manhood, in a variety of different forms.
At first it seems that we're going to be led through the film by Evan (complete with a Stiller voiceover). It felt like it was going to be tough to identify with this go-getter, with his suburban excitement and search for an African-American friend (to diversify). That's where Bob comes in to play. This guy is desperate for male-bonding, and who better to embody that then Vaughn? For most of the film I think director Akiva Schaffer's notes to Vaughn must have been, "Hang out, be weird and full of energy." Vaughn seems to be reenergized with this role, recapturing that youthful spirit every guy fell in love with in Swingers. With The Dilemma, Couples Retreat and Four Christmases there is an aspect of those characters that feels burnt out and worn out. Not here. Hill attempts to be the bruiser of the group as Franklin. He's their loose cannon who wasn't good enough for the police force, and has some aggression issues that he hopes to work out with the neighborhood watch. For most, Ayoade is a new talent. The British black actor is probably most known for starring in the BBC series "The IT Crowd" and is an expert at awkward. He has that rare ability to talk about his testicles and make it sound innocent and charming.
The guys meet up, hang out and stumble upon aliens. Yeah, that's right. This film eventually becomes an action-comedy, and pulls off the action pretty well. There is clearly some money spent on special effects. It feels a little odd that an R-rated filthy comedy puts in the effort to also attempt to be classified as a summer blockbuster, but it all kind of fits. I didn't even mind the side tangents. Evan's wife Abby (Rosemarie DeWitt) wants a baby, but Evan has issues. Bob is worried about losing his teenage daughter to a horny classmate. Plus, no one can open electronics because of those impenetrable plastic wraps. These are suburban problems, taken up a notch.
There are obvious twists along the way in The Watch, but they aren't the typical problem because they keep the film funny. Sure, the second act runs a little long with a rift coming between Evan and Bob that feels forced, but then the action-heavy third act ramps up before you know it. You'll even enjoy some classic slow-motion hero walking. It's consistently amusing, and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny. After the heavy film that was The Dark Knight Rises, you need some fun fluff in your life. The Watch, with its quality four-pack of comedic actors, delivers a really good summer escape.
3.5 out of 5 stars