The Watch | Movie review
Stiller-Vaughn comedy would have been unfunny even without current headlines.
Retitled from Neighborhood Watch in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting, The Watch would have been mostly laugh-free even without that tragic resonance. Because it’s essentially parodying the macho bluster of the George Zimmerman mentality, the premise doesn’t seem out of line. Rather, it’s the events in Aurora that cast a pall over the comedy: Bits with wanna-be cop Jonah Hill bragging that he failed the police’s mental-health exam—or scenes of him and his fellow reactionaries firing magazine after magazine at alien invaders—are the moments that inspire a cringe.
Even if you can get past that, The Watch seems lazy and half-developed, with a plot whose arc seems to have been written around a central product placement. Ohio Costco manager Evan (Ben Stiller) founds what Hill’s character dubs the “vigilante squad” after one of the store’s security guards is gruesomely killed in a manner that seems…otherworldly. The rest of the gang (Vince Vaughn and the engaging Richard Ayoade) thinks of the patrol as guys’ night out, an excuse to pop brewskis while cruising the streets. They're presented as unwitting bigots: When the protags begin to fear that aliens have taken human form, they immediately cast their suspicions on an effeminate new neighbor (an uncredited Billy Crudup). But The Watch is too tame to pass as satire, and there’s little of the chemistry one sees in such Vaughn-Stiller goofs as Dodgeball, save for a heart-to-heart in which Vaughn’s Bob attempts to console Evan, who’s afraid to tell his wife (Rosemarie DeWitt) he’s sterile. “She married you, not your dead jizz,” Bob hazards, sounding thoroughly unconvinced. Shooting blanks, alas, is a concept with which The Watch is all too familiar.