With summer movie season typically being all about the major action blockbuster blowing us away with intense scenes of bullets flying and exploding fireballs melting people’s faces, it’s easy to forget to just laugh once in a while. Lucky for us, there’s The Watch. Starring comedic powerhouses Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, and Jonah Hill, The Watch follows the bumbling antics of four unlikely friends who come upon an alien invasion that will wipe the Earth off the face of the galaxy if they don’t do something about it.
The movie starts with Stiller as the manager of the local Costco. When he arrives for work one day, he finds his night watchman has been killed while on duty…and his skin unceremoniously ripped off his body. With the local police unprepared for such an event, Stiller takes it upon himself to form a neighborhood watch and track down the killer. Enter Vaughn, Hill, and relative newcomer Richard Ayoade to complete the rag tag band of local misfits that quickly get in way over their heads.
Now, to add to the comedy gravitas already of the leading men in this film, we also saw the motion picture directorial debut of Akiva Schaffer, best known for working with Andy Samberg and Jorma Taccone on many of the Saturday Night Live digital shorts of the past few years, and the script was co-written by Seth Rogen. And honestly, sometimes with all those dynamic personalities coming together, you’d expect that the movie would suffer as it was worked to make sure everyone had a chance to shine. But The Watch succeeded in having me literally laugh out loud for much of the movie as everyone had their moments, including Akiva who inserted himself into a hysterical cameo.
The Watch isn’t perfect by any means though. It gets off to a really slow start and for a movie that’s 1 hour and 40 minutes long, the first 40 minutes really is spent just setting up the situation and the personality foundations for the main characters, and I definitely checked my watch a couple of times because of it. The beginning does have a few nice one-liners to not lose you completely, but thankfully that last hour was strong enough to pull it all together with one joke just rolling right into the next.
I also appreciated the fact that once the alien invasion was exposed, the movie took a step away from that and let it just linger there while focusing back in on the dynamic between the four leads. You knew they would get back to it sooner or later, being the major conflict of the movie after all, but the funniest moments of the movie were just the four guys bantering back and forth with this galactic-sized situation on their hands.
I think part of this also is the movie taking full advantage of its R-rating. Not pulling any punches with language, sex, drugs, or violence, The Watch definitely drew a few laughs just by its willingness to occassionally go to places people don’t normally go to outside their home, if ever. Then again, what do you expect from the guy who helped make shorts like “Motherlover” and “D*** in a Box”? This is definitely for adult eyes only folks.
When all was said and done, I could say I genuinely enjoyed The Watch. It had a lot of great moments and once it hits its stride, even though it took a little while longer than expected to get there, the smile never left my face. Stiller, Vaughn, and Hill all hit their notes perfectly and Richard Ayoade may have been the most pleasant surprise of all as he stole several scenes with his expert comedic delivery. If you’re tired of seeing guys in costumes beat up on each other and need a good hearty laugh this summer, The Watch is a fine and funny alternative.