Initial trailers for The Watch, back when it was still The Neighborhood Watch, made it out to be yet another comedy pushing star power over laughs. Months later neighborhood watch/eternal idiot George Zimmerman made headlines for shooting and killing Trayvon Martin. Suddenly The Neighborhood Watch was forced to show its hand. Renamed to The Watch, subsequent trailers revealed an alien invasion plot and a few honest laughs. The connection between the film and the real-life headlines disappeared, and a promising comedy seemed to surface.
Even after seeing the trailer a dozen times, I still laughed at Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn shooting that alien far too much. It's a hilarious bit, and one of a handful scattered throughout the film's 101-minute runtime. Unfortunately, a few good laughs does not a comedy make, and when you combine that with a dry and lifeless plot you end up with something pretty forgettable.
Ben Stiller plays Evan, but honestly I had to look that up after the film because my short term memory is ejecting this information at an alarming rate. For the sake of simplicity, I'll just call them by real names and we'll all follow along a lot easier.
So Ben Stiller is the town's most active citizen. He has a running club, he helps the elderly learn Spanish, and he's the manager of the neighborhood Costco. But when a security guard has his skin ripped off (by an alien! Spoiler!), Ben Stiller decides to go one step further and start up a neighborhood watch.
Enter Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, and Richard Ayoade, three guys looking for some buddies and a fun time. Ben Stiller's no-nonsense attitude about the job clashes with their hopes to stumble upon helpless hot Asian neighbors, but eventually they make it work and the hijinks begin. They find mysterious alien weapons and proceed to blow up some guy's farm (how neighborly), and then stumble upon the alien itself.
Eventually the team discovers that the aliens actually wear the skin of their victims. Suddenly anyone in the neighborhood could be an alien, which lets The Watch fill out its middle act with plotlines from other, better films like Fright Night and The 'Burbs (even I have to recognize that and I don't even like either of those 80s horror comedies). Really though, The Watch feels like a film trying its hardest to salvage a plot from a bad idea. Kind of like how I'm trying to salvage a review from this bad movie.
I can't say I didn't laugh on occasion, but more often I was frustrated by how The Watch made use of its all-star cast. Ben Stiller does a decent enough job of leading the pack, but Vince Vaughn is exhausting as the "I'm-always-yelling-about-stuff!" guy. I really wished he'd shut up and give more room for Jonah Hill and even moreso Richard Ayoade. Ayoade barely spoke throughout The Watch but almost every time he opened his mouth it was pure gold.
One question before I go: how much did Costco pay for advertising in this film? It'd be one thing to simply set a few scenes in the store, but the camera lingers on that logo for far too long. The Watch seems to spend more time nailing the aesthetic of a Costco than it does on any of the details of the plot or characters.
If you insist on seeing The Watch, just know that you'd be similarly served by burning twelve dollars and then taking a nap. As the hours pass since seeing it, I can feel my brain working to make space for more useful memories. There are worse films, and The Watch isn't offensively bad, but it's entirely forgettable and I…wait, what was I talking about?