FILM: A Generic Buddy Comedy, Covered With Familiar Green Slime in "The Watch"

Four goofy buddies get together to save the world from aliens, monsters, and ghosts — there may even be green or pink slime involved.

Sound familiar?

Newly released film “The Watch” directed by SNL and Lonely Island veteran Akiva Schaffer and written by “Superbad” duo Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg takes more than a page from its predecessors, most notably “Ghostbusters.”

“The Watch” stars Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, and Richard Ayoade as citizen volunteers, who initially band together to solve a violent murder, and also get some quality ‘bro’ time away from their families.

It turns out that not all is well in their quiet suburban enclave, and they quickly discover the existence of aliens and their dastardly plot to destroy planet Earth.

Oh, and there’s some extraneous family/personal stuff, too (you know, the people the dudes are trying to get away from).

Evan (Ben Stiller), the ring leader/worrywart, is consumed by his wife’s desire to get pregnant and his own infertility. Bob (Vince Vaughn) battles a 16-year old daughter and primary parenting responsibilities. Franklin (Jonah Hill) grapples with social-anxiety disorder and extreme violent tendencies. And finally, Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade), a foreign loner with a pension for lonely housewives and random fellatio rounds out the squad.

The movie is ably acted by talented comedic performers. Vaughn is his usual bumbling, over-the-top self. His spiel has a certain kind of charm, but one wonders how much longer he can continue to play the same frat-boy-foaming-at-the-mouth bit.  Interestingly enough, it was a nice twist to have him play this character as the protective parent of a teenage girl.

Ultimately, a handful of laugh out loud moments and a fun, recognizable cast were not enough to take over a weak story line, tired alien-gags, and the undeniable “Ghostbusters”—but worse—comparison.

There are a couple of really interesting aspects of current events that play a role in how one perceives this movie.

First, this film was initially called “The Neighborhood Watch” and focused more on the group’s efforts to play the part of vigilante cops. When Trayvon Martin was shot in Florida by a man claiming to be doing his part as an unofficial neighborhood guard—the film’s producers and studio had to make substantial changes to the film. It was renamed “The Watch,” and re-edited to focus more on the “aliens destroying the world” plot, and less on the antics of the group doling out their own justice.

The second related event is the recent mass shooting in Aurora, CO. Jonah Hill is a hilarious performer—but his character of Franklin is exactly the type of firearm-hoarding, police-reject, borderline-madman that routinely commit unimaginable atrocities.

Normally, “it’s funny, ‘cause its true,” but in this case, it was a little more upsetting, than funny.

Overall Grade: B-


“The Watch” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Click here for theaters and showtimes.