Science fiction comedies are a tough trick to pull off, but history has dealt the film-going audience a fairly decent selection of films within the genre. Classics like Men in Black, Galaxy Quest, Back to the Future and to a lesser extent Paul have all proven the opportunity that film-makers have combining these two successful types of film. Unfortunately for every Ghostbusters there is a Ghostbusters 2 and for every Demolition Man an Adventures of Pluto Nash. The Watch is released with a stellar cast including Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill and Richard Ayoade, based on a script by Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg.
Following a murder of a security guard in Glenview, Ohio, Costco manager Evan (Stiller) sets up a neighbourhood watch scheme, entitled The Watch with his friends Bob (Vaughn), Franklin (Hill) and Jamarcus (Ayoade). While going about their daily neighbourhood watch duties, they discover that there is a planned alien invasion of Earth and they decide to stop it before it begins.
Originally titled Neighbourhood Watch, the newly rechristened The Watch had its title changed due to a shooting death in February 2012 of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida by a neighbourhood watch captain. The trial and subsequent press coverage, lead to Fox changing the name and revealing the fact that The Watch actually dealt with aliens, rather than simply a neighbourhood watch.
Directed by Akiva Schaffer, The Watch is broad-appeal comedy that attempts to bring a Ghostbusters-type plot into the 21st Century with some comedy stalwarts like Stiller and Vaughn along with some up-and-comers like Hill and Ayoade. Sadly for everyone involved, and more importantly the audience, it fails. The problem with The Watch, is a creeping illness that affects so many films in the aftermath of The Hangover, in that, it’s rather mean-spirited and, in the case of The Watch, not particularly funny.
There appears to be a concerted push in Hollywood to appeal to the broadest possible market by producing lowest common denominator comedies. Gone are the key elements of past comedy gold. Modern mainstream comedy lacks the heart that drove films like Planes, Trains and Automobiles, the off-the-wall insanity of Anchorman or the rapid-fire joke nature of Airplane!. What audiences now have to contend with are a group of unhinged, unlikeable comic actors, playing some grisly versions of themselves and poking fun and everyone and everything. The Watch is especially guilty of this crime, but even the usually solid Stillar and Hill are misfiring.