The prospect of a comedy that sounds like a possible ‘contemporary Burbs’ remodelling, starring Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill is an intriguing one. With the addition of one of British filmmaking and comedy’s brightest stars in Richard Ayoade to add a little spice to the mix, battling alien neighbours, The Watch should be a sure thing at the box office this weekend. But those expecting a US Attack The Block will be sorely disappointed. The only winner out of this crude and lame excuse for a bromance is Costco – even Ayoade is a disappointing shadow of his usual witty self.
Good citizen Evan (Ben Stiller) is a likeable manager of a Costco store who returns to work the next day to discover one of his employees has been brutally murdered. Determined to get to the bottom of the cause of a possible neighbourhood killer on the prowl, he tries to get a Neighbourhood Watch group up and running. Unfortunately for him, the only willing attendees are big-mouthed, under-the-thumb Bob (Vaughn), weirdly disturbed and angry Police Academy reject Franklin (Hill) and eccentric Brit Jamarcus (Ayoade) – all more interested in forming a regular boy’s night in of beer, babes and bad jokes than keeping suburbia safe. But all four soon have they hands full with extraterrestrial invaders who are using Costco’s services to the fullest.
Indeed, there were such high hopes for a ‘2012 Burbs‘, a good-hearted suburban fiasco. However, these are knocked off the road map by OTT frat-boy idiocy and bodily-parts jokes that drown out any interesting relationship development and possible charming comedy rift between the four chalk-and-cheese characters. It’s as if relative writing newcomer Jared Stern and Pineapple Express and Superbad’s Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have been at the brewskies themselves while penning this, going overboard with the crass humour, without being at all clever about it. It’s a disappointing result that could have been highly entertaining. Even throwing in sub-plot issues with each member and the standard oafish cops does little to elevate the status quo.
All the leads play the same-old, tired characters we have seen them do countless times before, adding nothing new: Stiller is a nervy goody two-shoes; Vaughn is Detroit’s token shouty, motor-mouthed lad; Hill is the oddball with dark hidden secrets; and Ayoade is an off-colour Moss. If that’s your bag, take The Watch as it comes (and no more), with lots of run-of-the-mill, flash-bang effects while groaning at the blatant Costco’s advertising of ‘it’s all under one roof’. Quite so: it’s all predictable, off-the-production-line superstore comedy, marketed as a sci-fi fan-boy’s lighter bit of fluffy entertainment. And the aliens – seen them, zapped them all before. Which reminds me, must do a Costco’s run…