FILM REVIEW: The Watch (15)

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AS law-abiding citizens, we rely on the police to protect us from the shadier elements of society who would intentionally do our families harm.

However, resources are finite so residents are sometimes compelled to take matters into their own hands.

In the late 1960s, the concept of the neighbourhood watch gained traction in America, uniting communities in their desire to prevent crime at ground level.

The idea took root in the UK in the early 1980s and today, millions of people willingly give up their free time to assist local police with their investigations and provide support to the elderly and vulnerable.

The Watch pits one such coalition of concerned residents against a full-blown alien invasion in the fictional idyll of Glenview, Ohio.

It’s a preposterous premise, ripe with humorous potential.

Unfortunately, screenwriters Jared Stern, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg throw a relationship sex comedy and a goofy buddy movie into the mix and this pot pourri of competing genres creates an almighty stink.

Director Akiva Schaffer is poorly equipped to find method in the script’s madness and his film implodes before the computer-generated E.T.s have phoned home to beckon the otherworldly armada.

The unlikely hero is Evan (Ben Stiller), manager of a Costco wholesale store in Glenview, which he considers to be “the greatest town in the greatest country on the greatest planet”.

Evan is at the heart of the community, chairing a number of clubs and societies, and he dotes on wife Abby (Rosemarie DeWitt), who is desperate for a child.

When the store’s security guard, Antonio (Joe Nunez), is murdered, Sergeant Bressman (Will Forte) and his team fail to apprehend the culprit.

So Evan organises his own neighbourhood watch to bring the guilty party to justice.

Overly protective father Bob (Vince Vaughn), who spies on his teenage daughter Chelsea (Erin Moriarty), wannabe police officer Franklin (Jonah Hill) and Brit abroad Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade) join Evan’s crusade, bonding over copious beers as they hunt for clues.

Little do the hapless do-gooders realise that the person they are chasing is an extra-terrestrial warrior, who has landed on Earth to wipe out the pernicious human race.

The Watch misfires on every level, failing to generate laughs or excitement as Evan and his dysfunctional pals search for extra-terrestrials in their midst.

Stiller plies his usual sweetness while Vaughn’s loud-mouthed routine grates to the point that we pray his character is slaughtered by the invaders.

DeWitt’s despairing wife is at best two-dimensional and a protracted subplot involving a creepy neighbour (Billy Crudup) is hogwash, setting up a punchline involving gratuitous nudity that plunges Schaffer’s film into the gutter. And there it stays.

Review by Damon Smith

Released: August 24 (UK & Ireland)

Swearing, sex, violence.

Rating: 4.5/10