“Listen to my words, and hear his face”
If nothing else, Akiva Schaffer’s The Watch should be used as an example of how easily a film with a promising ensemble of comedy actors can fall short of the mark in nearly all aspects, ending up limping over the finishing line like an injured dog. Sounds harsh? Not in the slightest. If you were enticed by the trailer, it’s because the only funny moments were squeezed in to give the impression of constant laughs. There are funny moments, but most of them are confined to dialogue exchanges, which is never going to be enough is the face of a dire storyline that has no real meaning or interest for the viewer. One of laziest films I have seen in a while, and just proves that without a good script and competent direction, even the best actors comedy has to offer cannot make a poo shine.
The plot sees local nice guy and Costco store manager Evan Trautwig announcing at a local ball game that he intends to set up a neighbourhood watch. This is in response to his friend, who was killed whilst on duty at his store under suspicious circumstances. Cue camera zooming in on the rest of the main cast as they nod in approval to Evan’s rhetoric. Vaughan plays his first recruit, a protective father who has seemingly no real reason to join the group, outside of the movie’s comic foil that stereotypically juxtapositions Stiller’s clichéd anal retentiveness. This may seem overly cynical but the plot just feels generally thrown together out of re-hashed versions of characters all the actors have played before.
This is even more of a shame because Jonah Hill is actually quite funny when given the chance in the film, and Richard Ayoade is given a very awkward and ill-fit début character to work with. In fact, Ayoade looks almost confused at what his character is supposed to be, whose only real purpose rises to the surface later in the film. Unfortunately by then it is way too late and the film has already fallen into the awkward combination of sci-fi/horror, comedy and action that only works when executed well a la Shaun of the Dead.
The modern Apatow school of film making is proving hard to get right. With this sort of comedy there is a thin line between creating the elusive “laugh out loud” moment and just an awkward silence that is just waiting to end. Although The Watch isn’t terrible, it does move tentatively along without ever really having a good time, making it distinctly average compared to its comedy contemporaries.
Shapstik Verdict: Nothing original here I’m afraid, both in terms of story and characters. Funny in places, but no more than should be expected when such a collection of comedians is thrown together. Worth a watch if you are at a lose end, but Hill, Vaughan and Stiller have all been in better films and The Watch only proves how reliant even the best comedy actors are on a strong script. 4/10