Movie Reviews by Reel People: 'The Watch'

By Ron and Leigh Martel, Columnists, The Friday Flyer


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We’re still in the summer season and the “Razzie Award” (worst movie of the year) has emerged. Originally titled “Neighborhood Watch,” it was renamed to avoid ties to the Trayvon Martin incident. Oh, “The Watch” is still immensely offensive, but for other reasons. It’s rude, crude, tasteless, disgusting and filled with stupidity on so many levels.

We’re not big fans of slob comedies, but we do get the idea. This cast includes Ben Stiller, Jonah Hill and Vince Vaughn. Stiller is a comedic professional, Hill an up-and-coming stoner, but Vaughn’s act is getting a little stale for sophomoric toilet humor. Co-writer Seth Rogan aims morally lower each time and once again achieves his goal.

The plot has potential and the buddy approach is somewhat appealing, so a script considered merely adequate would have sufficed. However, the decision to utilize wit, thought and ability was over-ridden by Rogan’s patented raunch. Filled with F-bombs, vulgarity and an obsession with bodily fluids, they still found space for gratuitous nudity.

Evan (Stiller) loves his quiet town of Glenview, Ohio (filmed partially in Glenview, Illinois). He is a community leader and manager at the local Costco. After a murder, Evan creates a neighborhood watch program, recruiting Bob (Vaughn) an obnoxious jerk, Franklin (Hill) a wanna-be cop and Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade), a mild-mannered British sex fiend.

Evan leads this group of losers on a stakeout where they experience a close encounter of the worst kind and must defend their community against an extraterrestrial invasion. The setup is ripe for laughter, but tangents, subplots and distractions prevent the story from advancing beyond the primary objective of gross-out gags and crass one-liners.

In fairness, the movie has amusing moments. In addition to the likeable stars, it features Will Forte as an insufferable and arrogant policeman who steals each scene from the headliners with a more honest tongue-in-cheek bravado. The theatrical potential frustrates and insults the audience as director Akiva Schaffer (TV’s Saturday Night Live) repeatedly changes the genre from comedy to drama, romance, action and horror.

With each change, the writers double down with even more raunchy jokes and gags in exchange for an honest script. Their outright obsession with certain body parts and bodily fluids is disconcerting but the continued repetition of jokes, unfunny the first time, is tedious. It’s common practice for loud mouth juveniles to waive their guns and knives, but exhausting and disturbing to watch 40-year-old “boys” playing with their junk.

Top billing could go to the Costco wholesale warehouse where much of the action takes place. The jokes for this film were bought in bulk and slimed with bargain basement humor. Hey, a 50 percent discount is not the same as pants half off! Sure, everything is available under one roof, but we’ll pass on membership to humor where we continually shout, “Cleanup on aisle nine!”

The filmmakers were so concerned their movie would be considered ripped from the headlines, but nobody will mistake this mistake for that mistake. It is shrill, sloppy and chooses the low road at every turn. We suspect their ultimate goal was a cross between “Men in Black” and “The Hangover,” but both of those included actual wit and humor.

“The Watch” is 101 minutes and rated R for some strong sexual content including references, pervasive language and violent images. For this cast, it’s hello paycheck, goodbye dignity. Stiller is witty, Vaughn is witless and Hill only a half wit. But give credit to Stiller for keeping most of his self-respect as the straight man, even though he must have read the script and still accepted top billing for this fiasco.

There are only so many ways toilet humor can say, “Pull my finger,” and expect an audience to laugh. Those associated with this movie should be ashamed of themselves and of this venture, but it is likely they have already started similar projects. If in the theatrical driver’s seat, their comedic licenses should be suspended indefinitely.

Ron’s Rating: D Leigh’s Rating: F-