The cast/crew bit: directed by Akiva Schaffer, starring Ben Stiller, Jonah Hill, Vince Vaughn and Richard Ayoade
The ten-word synopsis: Some A-listers & Moss off the IT Crowd fight aliens.
Simply sticking three of the biggest names in Hollywood comedy together should be a recipe for success. Ben Stiller has a huge pedigree of comedic talent, Jonah Hills’ got a knack for crude delivery and Vince Vaughn’s been in enough funny films to mask the fact that he’s actually just a bit annoying. So why oh why, should The Watch, which slings the three together against the backdrop of an alien invasion, need a relatively obscure, young British comedian to make the film watchable?
Ben Stiller looks like he doesn’t want to be there. He’s cast in the straight man role yet again, and looks a bit bored of being the boring one. Vince Vaughn on the other hand seems to realise that a lot of what he does in this movie isn’t funny, so overacts massively, just making him seem more annoying than usual. Although, that said, Jonah Hill is actually quite good and would be the films’ main redeeming feature where it not for a stand-out performance from Richard Ayoade. Best known as Moss from the much-loved British sitcom The IT Crowd, Ayoades’ slightly offbeat delivery works every time and delivered a good 80% of the films’ laughs. The rest seemed to come from his body language. Even when he wasn’t speaking, his wonderfully underplayed facial expressions or uptight mannerisms seemed to keep me better amused than anything the films’ script could throw at me. He’s half way between the semi-hyperactive Moss and the brilliantly self-deprecating figure that Ayoade himself seems to become when interviewed. (The early “Most people are disappointed when they meet me” line was clearly improvised by Ayoade himself)
The film did seem to find an audience with some people though, as fellow viewers either side of me seemed to laugh at things other than Moss. There’s a few good set-ups, including one good bit with a camera and some good lines from Jonah Hills’ character, but ultimately I felt it wasn’t enough to carry the film. Especially as they seemingly went all-out on the comedy side of things and could only manage this measly fare, with the sci-fi element more-or-less ignored. If you look at good science fiction comedies, such as Men in Black or Attack the Block, they seem to love the sci-fi side of things. They embrace the weird and wonderful alien worlds they’re entering. The Watch doesn’t do that. Aliens are merely the set-up for a punchline that’s not even that funny. It’s a shame, really, as with Men in Black 3 being a fun but shallow affair, lacking the substance of the original, there was a hole in the market for a decent sci-fi comedy this year.
The characters also seem somewhat redundant. There are two stupid subplots about members of the titular Neighbourhood Watchs’ personal issues, and both of which are dull and add nothing in terms of either comedy or character development. Ben Stiller has a low sperm count and Vince Vaughn has a daughter who posts videos of her kissing boys on the internet. To be honest, I didn’t care. And I defy you to care either.
There’s a lot of the time in which, to be honest, it’s dead on the screen. There’s a large number of ‘borrowed’ gags, (If anybody can watch the ‘Peeing in a can in a car’ scene and not think of The Inbetweeners… You’d better nip down to HMV and pick up the 4-season boxset) and an even greater number of things that aren’t really jokes, but serve no other purpose so I suppose they probabl;y should be described as jokes. Oh, and there’s some of the most blatant product placement you’ll ever see, so that’s always good.
If you’re an IT Crowd fan or a Jonah Hill aficionado, it’s probably worth watching. As said, Ayoade is brilliant and Hill does his best, but ultimately it falls a little flat. What could’ve been a very promising movie if done right seems to die a little on the screen. Simply sticking three big names together was perhaps the problem: It’s a common misconception in Hollywood that you can skip the writing process for a comedy if you’ve got actors with good enough delivery and The Watch is a prime example. Thank god for Richard Ayoade.
5 exploding cows out of 10