Vince Vaughn had me at hello in his Swingers breakout role, and I admit I am a sucker for the sophomoric-guy shtick of Old School, Dodge Ball and The Wedding Crashers, but . . . it’s time to cut the crap. In The Watch, he plays Bob, a possessor of a suburban man-cave that would make any middle-age sports geek envious, but he’s more obsessed with his teen daughter’s sex life than a round of foosball with new pals Evan (Ben Stiller), Franklin (Jonah Hill) and Jamarcus (Robert Ayoade).
These guys, all residents of Glenview, Ohio, aren’t just getting together for beer and wings. After the mysterious death and dismemberment of one of Evan’s Costco employees, they form a neighborhood watch (which, in fact, was the movie’s original name) to patrol the streets for anything looking suspicious, or at least susceptible to devouring human flesh. Several jokes are vetted right away, from Evan’s inability to refrain from forming a committee to right any perceived wrong, to the idea that having a darker-skinned new friend evinces one’s left-leaning bona fides, to Franklin’s ongoing hang-ups after having failed the tests (as in, IQ, physical, and mental health) required to become a police officer. The Watch’s first endeavors to maintain order are typical disasters involving open containers, obnoxious skateboarders, dimwitted cops, and, at least for Evan, a creepy reptilian neighbor who just may or may not be of alien background.
Director Akiva Schaffer milks a few funny scenes—and any of those throughout the movie involving the poker-faced Hill—to decent effect, but mostly can’t seem to handle the demands of making a full-length feature, however goofy. Writers Seth Rogen, Jared Stern and Evan Goldberg don’t provide much help, as their script, despite rare glimpses of winning Ghostbusters redux and some sparkling commentary about suburban fears of “the other,” meanders. Mostly, The Watch is about cocks and cum, and if I offend, I’m sorry, but that’s about the jizz, I mean, the gist of it. Between Bob’s slightly understandable if still freaky fixation on the guy (or, rather, his size) dating his daughter, Franklin’s worry that he’s too feminine, Evan’s denial about his sterility and Jamarcus’s simple wish to meet an especially accommodating Asian housewife, it’s pretty much 24-hour penis people. Suffice it to say that when the real threats to homeland security reveal the source of their greatest power, which is also their greatest vulnerability, it’s—how shall we say—a no-brainer?