The Watch – A Review

Unfortunately, I don’t think that there is much of a reason to watch The Watch. This is definitely a case of all the best parts of the movie being in the trailer, which is a shame for a movie with so much comedic potential.

In a lot of ways, I think The Watch just has really bad luck. This movie was originally called Neighborhood Watch and featured a different ad campaign. This was the original image used on the posters in promotion of the film:

And this was this was the original trailer:


And then the tragic Trayvon Martin shooting happened in Florida.

Suddenly a movie named Neighborhood Watch featuring a poster with a shadowy black figure on a bullet ridden sign was no longer appropriate. The footage of Jonah Hill pretending to shoot people from the neighborhood patrol call, while pretty innocuous before the incident, now took on a whole new meaning. If the movie was going to be marketable, they had to distance themselves from any similarities to the Martin shooting. The name of the film was changed to The Watch and a whole new ad campaign was launched.

However, in the studio’s effort to distinguish the movie from real life, they wound up giving away too much of the plot. While The Watch is about a group of suburban guys who form a neighborhood watch after a murder in the community, they soon discover that the perpetrators they are looking for are aliens, not humans. While this makes clear that the movie is very different from the shooting in Florida, it also eliminates the element of surprise in the movie. The presence of aliens could have been a fun reveal – the guys in the watch don’t immediately figure out that extra-terrestrials are involved – but instead the whole thing seems kind of anticlimactic. I understand why the studio did what they did, but it unfortunately undercut the plot of the movie.

The Watch could have overcome this issue if it had just been funnier. It’s hard to say what the studio would have done if the Martin shooting hadn’t derailed their campaign, but in the process of giving away major plot points they also revealed most of the big laughs of the movie. There were still a few humorous moments that were unexpected, but for the most part I felt like I’d seen everything already. I had higher expectations of what this movie comedically was capable of; I like Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill separately, so putting them all together seemed like a comedy dream team. They give it their all and certainly elevate the material in some places, but they can only do so much. The jokes just aren’t there. Some of the dialogue is pretty dreadful; I don’t expect Shakespeare, but some of the lines are pretty clunky, which is particularly surprising because Seth Rogen co-wrote it and I’ve liked his previous scripts (Pineapple Express, Superbad). It’s not a good sign when I was bored through large segments of the film. Even worse, there were also long stretches where I just didn’t laugh. They wasted all the really good material in the trailers and there weren’t enough other laughs in the film to sustain my attention.

Some other thoughts:

  • I don’t know if footage of middle aged white guys trying to look tough while 90s rap plays in the background will ever not be funny. I hope not. Somewhere Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre are making bank from royalties.
  • I love Vince Vaughn – I have since Swingers – and even though he basically is doing the same shtick over and over again, it still cracks me up. One of the few moments that did make me laugh was the scene with him and the nesting dolls. He is definitely the best part of the movie – his facial expressions and his cadence are just so funny.
  • I understand that it’s a comedy, and a pretty preposterous one at that, but there are some pretty big plot holes in the movie. I’ll leave it at that.
  • I’m curious if Costco had to sign off on the movie, as one of their stores features pretty prominently in the action.
  • Richard Ayoade probably isn’t a household name, but he’s just as funny as the other leads. I’m vaguely familiar with him because I’ve started watching the British comedy The IT Crowd in which he co-stars. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for him in the future.
  • Will Forte also does a fine job in his supporting role. The problem with the movie isn’t the comedy pedigree of the participants. Keep an eye out for another SNL cast member in a quick cameo.
  • To the large, loud man sitting in the front of the theater – I have no idea why they decided to use the title Taken 2 instead of Taken Again for the Liam Neeson sequel, but I don’t think this necessitated your long diatribe during the previews. Yes – we could all hear you.
  • Speaking of previews, based on the ones I’ve seen recently, the trend this fall in horror movies will be possessed children. I’ve seen at least four previews for films where this is the central premise and all look super creepy. This must be the Insidious effect (one of the better recent films in the horror genre). And yes, I’ll probably see them all.
  • What a difference a week makes. I don’t know if it was the lackluster crop of new movies this weekend or the residual effects of the shooting in Aurora, Colorado, but there was no one at the midnight movies last night. There were only a dozen cars in the parking lot when I left the theater at 2 am. I wasn’t expecting the crowds of last week, but I thought more teenage boys would have been at The Watch, especially since they don’t have school in the morning.
  • Apparently the good people at the Crossgates Regal cinema don’t read my blog. If they did, they would know that they should probably pull all their giant ads in the lobby for Gangster Squad since the movie has to be re-shot and the release will be delayed until 2013.

The Watch isn’t excruciating to sit through, but suffers from too many of the best jokes being featured in the trailer. It probably wasn’t financially viable, but it might have made more sense to shelve the movie for a bit until the Martin shooting wasn’t so fresh instead of overcompensating by giving away too much of the film. Despite the great cast and the solid writing staff, the film just doesn’t do their talents justice. Not worth your $10 at the cinema, but wouldn’t be terrible as a rental. Or just skip the movie, watch the trailer and save yourself 1 hour and 45 minutes.

The Watch opens nationwide today.

One thought on “The Watch – A Review

  1. Alex says:

    Funny comment about Gangster Squad. That’s why you deserve the honorary degree in Pop Culture Dr. T-Bone. You put the pop back in culture.

    Won’t be seeing Neighborhood Watch anytime soon. Just like I won’t be wearing an over-the-top costume to the next screening at Regal Cinemas. And I was so looking forward to strapping on a gat for the next Tarantino movie! 🙂 (Too soon?)

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