It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a consistently impressive Hollywood comedy, and unfortunately The Watch doesn’t buck this trend. Whilst it’s entertaining enough and occasionally hilarious, I’d recommend Attack the Block above this any day.
I compare this with Attack the Block because the plots are somewhat similar. Where last year’s brilliant sci-fi comedy concerned an alien attack on a block of South London housing commission flats, The Watch has the invasion occurring in suburban USA. Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill and Richard Ayoade are members of the recently formed Neighbourhood Watch who make it their mission to eliminate the otherworldly threat.
As far as comedies go, this aims for a fairly broad appeal, which means there’s nothing too clever. As the other comedies written by Seth Rogen (Pineapple Express, Superbad), his tactic seems to be coming up with a bare bones story in which the actors are allowed to adlib until something funny comes out. This means that the funniest parts of The Watch aren’t anything to do with the plot at all, but rather rely on the comedic abilities of Stiller et al. These are funny performers to be sure, but I prefer comedies that actually contain narrative-driven humour. The fact is that the wonderfully absurd premise – aliens invading your archetypal dream suburb – isn’t plundered much at all. Instead, most of the humour relies on tried and true tropes of the past decade or so.
Thus, all of our characters are immature manchildren who just want to hang out with their bros. This indolent characterisation became tiresome years ago, so it’s a pity we’ve haven’t moved on. To make matters worse, there are some other unfortunate character traits that pop up. Bob (Vaughn) uses Facebook to stalk his daughter, frequently bursting into her room to admonish her for her burgeoning sexuality. I realise this is played for laughs, but I find the notion of fathers taking ownership of their daughter’s sexuality incredibly sinister, especially in light of the sickening practice of purity balls. I’m sorry if I sound like a spoilsport, but it’s hard to ignore this kind of stuff, especially when Bob is vindicated for his behaviour. Throw in a bit of homophobia (which is always HIGH-LARIOUS) and you have a comedy that caters to the lowest common denominator.
The Watch is, strangely enough, most entertaining when the plot doesn’t take front and centre. The alien invasion story is incredibly bland and the creatures themselves aren’t particularly interesting. The narrative is lazy, and the distinct lack of female characters (though Rosemary DeWitt joins in the fun towards the end) is a missed opportunity also. Ayoade is great in his Hollywood debut, but nothing he does here is funnier than his work in ‘The IT Crowd’. If you were excited about the prospect of The Watch, then do yourself a favour and hire Attack the Block.Rating: