I bumped into fellow TheMovies.co.za writer Justin at the press screening for The Watch, the new Akiva Schaffer (Hot Rod) directed and Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill and Richard Ayoade starring R-rated comedy about goofball guys, aggressive aliens and green goo. Funny thing was, Justin thought he was there to watch the screening of End of Watch, David Ayer’s gritty cop drama.
Understandably, he was disappointed after I burst his bubble, but then gave a little laugh. And then looked kind of disappointed again. Unfortunately for both of us, that’s pretty much exactly how the next 100 mins would also play out.
Evan Trautwig (Stiller) is the senior manager at a local Costco in picture postcard perfect Glenview, Ohio, who spends his time running (sometimes quite literally) from the problems in his marriage by founding a number of different community groups. When his store’s nightwatchman is found brutally and mysteriously murdered – his body has been skinned and is covered in a green slime – and Evan is confronted by the bumbling failings of the local police, he decides to take matters into his own hands and start a local neighbourhood watch to catch the killer.
Only, this killer is not from around here. He’s from way, way out of town (try a couple of star systems away) and he’s brought hundreds of his scaly friends along with him to wear people’s skin as they covertly prepare for a full blown alien invasion.
All of this (the extraterrestrial bits) is unbeknownst to Evan, who faces the problem that despite knowing a lot of people, he actually has no friends, so the only folks that show up to his Watch are the goofballs with an agenda: Bob (Vaughn), the beer-swilling, sports talki-
Actually, you know what? I’m not even going to type out these character descriptions , because for all intents and purposes, these guys are playing themselves. If you’ve seen any movie/TV series over the last 10 years with these guys in it, then you’ve already been to this dog and pony show and know all the tricks.
Ben Stiller, as usual, is the awkward straight man to Vaughn’s motormouth dude’s dude, while Ayoade’s horny recent divorcee Jamarcus is so like his I.T. Crowd character that I’m surprised that nobody was asked to reboot anything. The only exception, and I really use that term in the most generous of applications, is Jonah Hill’s Franklin. Instead of being his usual momma’s boy loser, he’s now a momma’s boy loser with violent tendencies. I know this because he carries a butterfly knife and a crazy look, and he’s not afraid to use either.
On the plus-side of this familiarity though, is that there is a definite spark of chemistry between the guys, especially between Vaughn and Hill who share the screen for the first time. And we see snatches of that chemistry when the guys are peeing into beer cans during stake-outs, singing drunkenly while driving, tackling egg throwing kids and eventually blowing random stuff (including really bad CGI livestock) into smithereens with a strange silver ball they discover on the side of the road after Evan runs over something squid-like and gooey (with the consistency of a very particular male bodily excretion. Thanks Vince Vaughn for telling us 10 times) with his car.
But while the jokes in Schaffer and Rogen’s scripts do come pretty fast, they unfortunately mostly fall flat on their face even faster. There are a few moments of hilarity though – mainly provided by Will Forte’s douchey and inept Sgt. Bressman and a foul-mouthed cameo by legendary insult artist R. Lee Ermey (the drill sergeant from Full Metal Jacket) – but these are not enough to stop the first and most of the second act from feeling bloated and tired and way longer than it actually is. The seen-it-before gross-out gags for the most part elicit nothing more than a snigger and the sub-plots end up being nothing more than an excuse to make penis jokes and cram in scenes of hot bodies wearing tiny bikinis or even less.
It’s only once the alien threat (you know, the thing that was supposed to be the whole point of this movie) eventually gets pushed front and centre that the film stops spinning its unfunny wheels. Director Schaffer has the final act move at a decent clip, with a great sense of fun permeating almost every scene, which is why I can easily forgive the horribly and predictably convenient flaw in the alien’s plans which will allow our heroes to possibly save the day, and not to mention the incredibly juvenile alien Achilles Heel.
But all of this arrives far too late, and I can’t help but feel disappointed (there’s that feeling again!) that more wasn’t done with this movie. A trio of Hollywood comedy heavyweights being joined by a star British funnyman, a Saturday Night Live alum in the director’s chair and a script about kooky characters and alien invasions co-written by said alum and funnyman Seth Rogen?
I should have spent the time shaking with laughter, not shaking my head at another bad bodily fluid joke.
Last Updated: September 3, 2012