DIRECTED BY AKIVA SCHAFFER
When it comes to unfortunate links to current affairs, The Watch can’t catch a break. Marketed until May as Neighborhood Watch, the film was retitled by cautious execs at Fox in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting, to avoid untoward associations between the sophomoric science-fiction comedy and the decidedly un-funny actions of Florida neighbourhood-watch coordinator George Zimmerman. The studio opted not to reschedule the film’s release, however, meaning The Watch—which leans hard on the idea that gratuitous gun violence is good for a laugh—now arrives in the immediate aftermath of the Aurora tragedy, as well as several incidents of firearms-related bloodshed here in Toronto.
While, plainly, no one involved with The Watch is to blame, the fact remains: scenes like the one in which Jonah Hill’s mildly deranged wannabe vigilante flips his mattress to reveal a huge personal arsenal are less amusing than they might have been a few weeks ago.
That said, The Watch does a fine job of failing to be funny all on its own. Given the ample comic talent of its collaborators—Hill headlines alongside Ben Stiller, with a script from Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, while director Akiva Schaffer is a Lonely Island alum—it inevitably has its moments. But these are overshadowed by slack plotting, sluggish pacing, and a torrent of lazy, lowest-common-denominator dick jokes (if there’s a movie that can rival The Watch for record number of semen references, it must be rated triple-X), most of which are delivered by a gratingly garrulous Vince Vaughn.
Had The IT Crowd‘s Richard Ayoade enjoyed even half the screen time that’s squandered on Vaughn, The Watch might just have worked. As it is, the bespectacled Brit is the film’s best feature, even in an all-too-marginal role. And yet, his presence is also a detriment, in that it invites comparisons to last summer’s London-set take on similar material, the terrific U.K. import, Attack the Block. As an alien-invasion action-comedy that’s genuinely fresh, thrilling, and smart, that film is yet another association that does The Watch no favours at all.