If the overwhelmingly intellectual films of the summer have stressed out your brain box, The Watch will be a delightful vacation from thinking, good taste and creativity for you. A movie about neighborhood oddballs who set out to find a murderer but discover aliens instead, all while uncovering suburban neighborhood secrets, aspires to reach the heights of The 'Burbs but feels more like Desperate Housewives minus the laff riot.
Costco manager and classic Type A personality Evan (Ben Stiller) is outraged at the murder of one of his employees. So, like any concerned citizen who needs distraction from his own personal problems, he forms a neighborhood watch team. Vince Vaughn plays Bob, the same reluctant-and-vulgar-but-devoted suburban dad that he always plays. Jonah Hill is Franklin, the weirdo loner with a switchblade, and Richard Ayoade plays Jamarcus, the guy who's strange because he is British and wears blazers. Quite a motley crew--at least by Hollywood standards. Together they run around their neighborhood discovering alien weapons and the aliens that misplaced them, while making plenty of semen and penis jokes.
As an R-rated comedy, the movie can't hold a candle to recent zingers like Ted or Bridesmaids because although the story seems unique, the jokes definitely aren't. Vince Vaughn peeing into a Budweiser can on a stakeout and Jonah Hill yelling at his mother aren't exactly comedy revelations. Are they funny? Mildly. But examining alien goo on Ben Stiller's car and telling us what it reminds them of was funnier when Cameron Diaz used it as hair gel in one of Ben Stiller's other movies. At best, this movie is a decent rental but isn't likely to replace your rainy day favorites.
When the joy gets sucks out of what should be an effortlessly funny time, I always research who was involved. One of the writers of this film, Jared Stern, also wrote Mr. Popper's Penguins, which relied solely on the charm of Jim Carrey and those adorable little birds wearing nature's tuxedos to be palatable (which it wasn't, to anyone over the age of 6). The director is Akiva Shaffer, who has directed plenty of funny shorts for Saturday Night Live and also the Andy Samberg comedy Hot Rod. These factors seem to explain why the film feels much less funny the longer it runs--the humor is so uncreative that it becomes much more noticeable over time.
There is one thing the movie does pretty well. It seems like mishandling British actors remains the only way we can continue punishing Great Britain for their centuries-old imperialist ways (case in point: Ricky Gervais and Russell Brand). We just can't figure out what to do with them. Richard Ayoade, however, fits into the movie well and brings the freshest comedy of the bunch. If you haven't caught him in IT Crowd yet, track it down on DVD and treat yourself. Sacrificing days to go through the series is a far better way to spend your time and money than this classless, uninspired drag.