The Watch ✮1/2
Ugh! Slimed Again!
by Glenn Lovell
If the new Ben Stiller comedy “The Watch” feels a tad familiar, it’s because it’s a quasi-rip-off of the infinitely funnier kick-ass Brit comedy “Attack the Block.” In the U.K. release, a gang of South London kids collect their bats and chains and thwart an alien invasion. The joke: those drooling what’s-its prove no match for the boyz in the hood.
In “The Watch,” the Cockney homies have morphed into a neighborhood watch team in suburban Ohio. The joke now is these guys can’t tell their asses from their elbows. Think the Stooges in a grade-Z sci-fi’er like “The Blob” or “Have Rocket, Will Travel” and you’ll be in the ballpark.
That less-than-inspired premise is good for an occasional grin, thanks to the obviously improvised riffs of Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill and England’s Richard Ayoade, whose hat hair and meek demeanor hide a very dry wit.
In voiceover narration that feels at times cribbed from Alexander Payne’s “Election,” Evan (Stiller) introduces himself as a senior manager at the local Costco and a community do-gooder. The death of a co-worker fires up the hometown Dudley Do-Right, who posts fliers for neighborhood-watch volunteers. Bob (Vaughn), a clear case of arrested development, and Franklin (Hill), a Police Academy reject, sign up for what they assume will be much male-bonding over beer and pizza. They’re joined by Jamarcus (Ayoade), a cheery newcomer to town whose fantasizes run to lonely housewives.
Besides the endless stream of penis jokes and the alien goo with the consistency of you-know-what, screenwriters Jared Stern and Seth Rogen pad out their “original” script with subplots involving a creepy neighbor (Billy Crudup) who turns out to be a creepy swinger, Bob’s vaguely rebellious teen daughter (Erin Moriarty), and Evan’s neglected but ultimately game wife (Rosemarie DeWitt). Other types who put in an appearance: the beady-eyed, slow-on-the-uptake town cop (SNL’s Will Forte) and the old coot (R. Lee Ermey) who’s had “alien bait” stamped on his forehead.
The alien invaders are standard-issue all the way, i.e. cheap knockoffs of every reptilian wayfarer. Little wonder news of Evan’s low sperm count takes precedence over the impending invasion. They’re that unmemorable.
Costco and Trojan must have money riding on this venture. The discount chain and Magnum XL rubbers get so many plugs this comedy rates right up there with “Mac & Me” as the feature-length equivalent of an infomercial.
How slack is “The Watch”? So slack that Hill has a tough time keeping a straight face when finishing off a running joke. Who can blame the guy? If ever a film deserved to be called a patchwork of outtakes, this is it.
THE WATCH ✮1/2 With Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, Richard Ayoade. Directed by Akiva Schaffer; scripted by Jared Stern, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg. 101 min. Rated R (for profanity, gooey alien attacks)