Some Things Are Better Left Un-Watch-ed
Way back in April, I cracked open the script for what would become this summer’s “let’s put a bunch of high profile actors in one place” comedy The Watch and quite frankly, was not very impressed. As a script, Neighborhood Watch (as it was then called) was weak, hard to get through, and had a major curveball thrown in that just didn’t seem to fit with what works in comedies these days. Needless to say, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to seeing this film. Later, I found out there had been a whole rewrite, the twist I’d read may have been cut out, and that Jonah Hill (a personal favorite of mine and, um, EVERYONE’S) was attached to the film. I was excited again! This could be the quirky, funny, stupid movie I’d hoped for!
I saw it. It wasn’t.
Instead of a comedy that put me in a light mood and let me laugh at some dumb jokes, I ended up sitting through a film that was just over an hour and a half but felt twice as long as The Dark Knight Rises. The plot centers around a loveable bunch of men in suburbia who’ve formed a local neighborhood watch and somehow uncover an undercover plot by space aliens to enslave Earth. Sounds okay, right? And that’s what it was – just okay. Even if the script was lacking a little, with the right actors, this could have been a summer blockbuster comedy. Unfortunately, the cast was comprised mostly of actors whose careers have pretty much already peaked. At the center of the comedy was Ben Stiller, who did the same thing he has in every recent film – try really hard to be funny. Vince Vaughn was his number two, and it got me thinking, where has he been in recent years? Oh that’s right, Not-Very-Funny-Since-Dodgeball-Ville (and frankly, a little disturbing). Of course, Jonah Hill has still got it, but his performance was so weak it almost seemed as if he knew the film wasn’t going to be such a hit, and he wasn’t putting in his best effort. Newcomer Richard Ayoade was decent for what his role was, but then again, it wasn’t that interesting of a role to begin with.
All said and done, it’s not particularly surprising The Watch flopped like it did. Actors aside, the script had major problems, the plot had some holes, and the jokes could have been ten times as funny if a better team of writers had handled the comedy-big-leagues in the movie. And let’s not forget that the lack of ANY mention of aliens in early advertising for The Watch is astounding! Let’s think about this. Why withhold the key draw into the movie unless… it’s actually not a draw? To me, and to many contemporaries I talked to, having the movie focus on aliens simply made it less funny. A film where Hill, Vaughn, Stiller, and Ayoade simply interacted in their Neighborhood Watch facing somewhat realistic threats in a very poor manner might have actually been a good film!
Sadly, at least for this writer, the added sci-fi element did not better the film, and it seemed apparent that someone at the studio agreed, since they kept the mention of aliens to a minimum in even the latest advertising for the film. Sometimes buddy movies like this turn out like musical supergroups. You occasionally get the good ones, like Cream, but more often than not something more akin to Chickenfoot will come out and pass the time but be quickly left to the dust, and that is what The Watch was this summer.