In Cinemas Now – The Watch, Certificate 15, Directed by Akiva Schaffer – Review By William McClean

The Watch **

Directed By Akiva Schaffer

Starring – Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughan, Jonah Hill and Richard Ayoade
WHEN was the last time you can remember Ben Stiller being funny? Honestly, before I get into reviewing Akiva Schaffer’s science fiction comedy, The Watch, certificate 15. I had to ask myself what was the last film that Stiller featured in that I actually found funny.

While I’m raising the issue I must include Vince Vaughan. Neither actor has appeared in a really strong comedic feature since 2004’s Dodgeball. That’s seven years and that’s a long time in Hollywood. While both American actors might feature in film’s that return a profit, it’s fair to say neither have had a great comedic hit in quite some time.

Sadly, their latest effort, The Watch, fails to buck the trend as it fails to deliver. Proving once again, that mixing cinematic genres with high production values tends to dilute the comedic appeal of a feature film.

The Watch features a plot seemingly lifted from Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Stiller’s character, Evan, forms a neighbourhood watch to catch the murderer of one of his employees at his Costco store. His team discover that earth is under attack from an Alien race, who are killing residents in the Glenview area and using their skin to hide their identities.

Featuring a strong comedic cast, featuring alongside Stiller and Vaughan is Jonah Hill and Richard Ayoade. Hill’s character Franklin is a disgruntled gun crazy youth, rejected by the Police and Ayoade is a divorcee who has just moved to the area. Their’s great chemistry within their group, so it’s such a shame to see their talent wasted here.

Schaffer, whose notable features to date, include the 2007 comedy, Hot Rod, works on a screenplay written by  Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. Mixing the mundane every day problems of the central characters with it’s out of this world plot. But it’s the mundane issues of the neighbourhood watch, which provide many of the films better laughs.

The film’s one hour 42 minute runtime felt slow and sluggish and several times throughout the feature simply dragged. The aliens themselves are done quite well, looking like they had seemingly walked off the set for District 9 . Schaffer’s film is  all over the place, jumping from horror to science fiction and back to comedy. The film’s opening sequence in the darkened Costco store is rather dark for a comedy feature.

That said, the film isn’t without the odd chuckle, Vaughan’s character, Bob provides some laughs from his relationship with his young daughter, and his bromance with Evan has some genuinely sweet moments. The biggest disappointment though was Ayoade. Dressed like his character Moss from The IT Crowd, he has many of the film’s funniest moments, but is criminally underused within the film.

Big budgets comedies have always received mixed receptions at the Box-Office. Steven Spielberg’s 1979 Pearl Harbour based comedy, 1941, received largely poor critical response and the director himself has subsequently admitted the feature was flawed. 2008’s comedy, Tropic Thunder, which also starred Ben Stiller, was an underwhelming affair, saved surprisingly by a great cameo performance by a barely recognisable Tom Cruise.

What this film needed was Ivan Reitman. After watching this thoroughly disappointing feature, I was reminded just how good a job Reitman did on the similarly themed 2001 comedy, Evolution. The Canadian director behind such classics as Ghostbusters, managed to create a science fiction comedy, that was genuinely funny, witty and rarely dragged, unlike the Watch.

With reports that Stiller is working on a sequel to Zoolander, I only hope the American actor finds a comedy vehicle that showcases his talents.

Review By William McClean

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