As the world continues to mourn the loss of those 12 people who lost their lives in the now infamous Dark Knight shooting, controversy continues to rear its ugly head over how films address and directly influence society.
It was strongly reported that before his shooting spree, James Holmes likened himself to the Joker from The Dark Knight. Now, only a fortnight ahead, the Trayvon Martin shooting in February of this year has forced new comedy The Watch to change its title from the original Neighbourhood Watch, thus causing one scene in particular to be very uncomfortable…
Akiva Schaffer directs only his second feature film as he takes a break from his Saturday Night Live duties. As a regular writer of the comedy series and also currently married to fellow SNL writer Liz Cackowski, it is no real feat guessing how The Watch is going to play out…
Along the lines of Joe Cornish’s Attack the Block, as an alien invasion slowly threatens the existence of earth, conservative do-gooder Evan (Ben Stiller) hopes to build a team, consisting of simpleton Bob (Vince Vaughn), psychopath Franklin (Jonah Hill) and Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade). They call themselves the “Neighbourhood Watch” whose initial mission is to solve the strange murder of Evan’s friend Antonio Guzman.
Not even ten minutes into the film and surprisingly either the original script or simply no editing has caused Evan to announce to his fellow team that they will tackle anything suspicious they see; an image of shooter George Zimmerman having the exact same thought springs to mind… As a big Hollywood comedy, the film begins awkwardly and a revised title of “The Uncomfortable Watch” seems a lot more fitting.
Richard Ayoade came to fame as super geek Moss in television series The IT Crowd and by the looks of it, he has walked out of an episode and played a slightly toned-down Moss. Less excitable that makes him a tad dreary. As it becomes apparent that the aliens have started taking the form of humans, the tempo has to step up and it does. Leaving the comedy far behind.
Jonah Hill’s tough-guy persona doesn’t really wash due to the fact we remember him as a dopey fat kid who can be funny at times. He is the funniest of the cast, but that isn’t really saying much as they all are pretty diabolical. Being produce of the SNL vehicle (look out for that lovable Adam Samburg for a cameo), the humour is dry and awkward. Trying to mimic our ironic humour, that has been tried before on television (The Office, The Inbetweeners) and notably failed. It fails again in The Watch and after taking roughly half the film’s length working out why and who on earth hired Richard Ayoade, any hopes of a worthy ending are soon dashed causing the few positives from this film (the CGI work on the aliens, Stiller’s performance 75% of the time) to be deliberately forgotten.
After having the pleasure to watch Anchorman, Zoolander, Superbad and, not least, The IT Crowd, this is nobody’s best work. A shambles which barrages you with jokes no end, and at such a fast pace that one ends up missing or simply not hearing the few good ones. Before putting this to bed, Ben Stiller does provide a few good laughs, but too little too late in our opinion.
Catch the trailer for The Watch here: