This misfire Ben Stiller/Vince Vaughn comedy is way more narratively complex than it should be...
Fox / 102 Minutes / 2012 / Rated R / Street Date: November 13, 2012
In The Watch, Ben Stiller plays Evan Trautwig, a nice, well-mannered guy with a wife at home (trying to conceive!), a couple of reliable but dumbass buddies, and a job at a local Costco. Everything is hunky dory until the night manager at Evan's beloved Costco not only gets murdered but is really mutilated in a bizarre and unseemly way. This prompts Evan and company to start a neighborhood watch program, and once they do, they learn some interesting things.
Surprisingly - as though studio execs missed it when it came across in a pitch - the alien invasion element of The Watch is a complete non sequitur. I'm a sucker for anything extraterrestrial in a film (regardless of genre), but once Vince Vaughn, Stiller, Jonah Hill and Richard Ayoade start shooting zombie ETs and blowing things up using found alien weapons, it seems pointless. A movie about a neighborhood watch program provides more than enough real estate for a summer comedy like this one - why go out on a limb with an entirely new and different story arc?
This is all to say that The Watch is a mess, a comedy that not even Hangover fans felt worthy during its anemic summer run in multiplexes. Having to change the publicity campaign - and even the film's title! - due to the Trayvon Martin case and its media impact is surely part of its inconsistency, but even with a smooth landing, this one wouldn't have made it. Sometimes the collective charisma of a grand comic cast is enough to buoy a picture, even with a terrible screenplay: alas, this is not the case here.