Review: THE WATCH

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 2.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

Prior to screening this movie, the internet (mostly Twitter) was awash with gripes and complaints of how much this looked like an Attack the Block rip-off.  Well, rest assured, this film shares little in common with Joe Cornish’s excellent sci-fi/horror comedy, save for an alien invasion storyline.  In fact, the movie is a bit scant on alien activity and heavy on comedic improvisation worthy of some laughs, but not enough for my taste.  No. Attack the Block is definitely a tough act to follow in that specific genre and while The Watch has some entertainment value, it fails to achieve the heights of excitement and hilarity that the cult classic delivers.

 After one of his employees is murdered, Costco manager Evan (Ben Stiller) decides to organize a neighborhood watch to help the inept police department catch the killer.  Neighbors Bob (Vince Vaughn), Franklin (Jonah Hill) and Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade) eagerly volunteer their services.  The watch eventually discovers that aliens have invaded their neighborhood with plans for invasion on a much larger scale. 

 I can honestly say that I found the humor moderately amusing, but felt like it took up too much of the movie’s time.  Not all of the jokes made me laugh, but enough did to keep the whole experience entertaining.  I really wanted to see more thrilling scenes with the aliens attacking and the absence of these villains caused me more frustration than the hit and miss jokes did.  Akiva Schaeffer (Saturday Night Live, Hot Rod) directs with a script penned by Jared Stern (Bolt, Mr. Popper’s Penguins) Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg.  Overall, the film has its fun moments, but doesn’t really offer audiences anything particularly special.  The producers did assemble a fine cast of talented comic actors who obviously can improvise well.  I just feel that way too much time is spent on these improvisational moments and not enough on the story development and action.

 Ben Stiller offers a fine turn as the uptight and straight laced Evan.  For those annoyed with some of his more over-the-top silly roles, this character should be more palatable.  For me, as much as a comedy requires a straight man, I found his character a bit dull and uninteresting.  For that I don’t so much blame Stiller as I do the writers.  Vince Vaughn plays his signature fast talking average Joe character as Bob.  Seriously, I would love to see Vaughn in role where he plays someone dynamically different.  He has milked this default character for about 6 or more films.  It works within this movie, but I know he is capable of much better (Psycho). Actually, the two actors who nailed their parts well and had me laughing the most are Jonah Hill who portrays the off centered man-child Franklin and lesser-known actor Richard Ayoade who stars as Jamarcus.  Ayoade brings a charmingly mild mannered personality to this character and has some of the best lines in the film.  On a completely different note, Ayoade wrote and directed the wonderful film Submarine.  The movie also features appearances by Rosemarie DeWitt (Bob’s wife Abby), Will Forte who plays a silly inept cop (Sgt Bressman), R. Lee Ermey (Manfred) and Billy Crudup (uncredited) as an uber-creepy neighbor.

 So Attack the Block fans can breathe a sigh of relief.  This movie does not steal much from the British film. It doesn’t even come very close to deserving the praise bestowed upon Block.  I would recommend waiting to rent this one or watch it on cable or satellite.  It does have its moments, but not really enough to deserve movie ticket money.

 

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