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Perhaps it’s the various changes of actors, plot and title that “The Watch” went through before being brought to the cinema, but something about this comedy seems to be suffering from Jason Bourne syndrome – in that it just isn’t quite sure what on earth it really is.
At first the film is certain it’s another “guys on the beers” buddy movie, as local busybody Evan (Ben Stiller) recruits town residents Bob (Vince Vaughn), Franklin (Jonah Hill) and Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade) as part of a Neighbourhood Watch, after a shocking murder at the nearby Costco. But then, as if accidentally discovering a file marked “Top Secret: True Identity”, it flips into a mild “who is really human” Stepford Wives thriller, as Evan and the gang discover that aliens are behind the strange goings on, and it’s up to them to stop an eminent full scale invasion. The buddy elements are still there, but the strange twist, rather than adding depth, only serves to conjure up an image of the film’s producers madly leafing through files and papers, finally holding one aloft, and proclaiming “Aliens! That’s what we’ll stick in there!”
It’s a shame, because the plain and simple bromance comedy elements on the whole work quite well. The humour is admittedly pretty smutty and disgusting in parts, but hey, what do you expect with Superbad’s Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg at the writing helm? It’s also great to see Brit Richard Ayoade (The IT Crowd) overseas and hanging out with the gang, although at times it appears as if the writers weren’t quite sure what to do with him, and so fell back on the “naive, English geek” routine.
If the gang work best as a group when quips and tradeoffs are flying through the air, they fall down considerably when apart. Alongside the problem of aliens decimating the entire planet and killing all life as we know it, Evan is also having trouble conceiving a baby with wife Abby (Rosemarie DeWitt) – proof of Sod’s law if I ever saw it. Why this romantic problem was needed on top of everything else I’m not sure, as it only adds to the identity crisis of the film – as well as adding an entirely pointless and irritating wife character who, as is often the case in these films, takes no time at all to be convinced that aliens a) exist and b) are living in a Costco warehouse. There’s some joy to be had in the final action sequence with the gang kicking alien hide together, but the confusion of the various middle strands sucks a lot of that joy in the meantime. It appears that someone realised just too late that a film focusing on four well known, funny actors isn’t enough without anything coherent happening for them to be funny about.