THE WATCH. “Misfits from the suburbs” sci-fi comedy

Days before The Watch, Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s 21 Jump Street hit cinemas.

Filip Jalowski

14 March 2024

THE WATCH. "Misfits from the suburbs" sci-fi comedy

Probably no one expected that an American comedy about two clumsy cops going back to high school could turn out to be one of the best films of the summer. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum proved that with the right acting skills, they could breathe life into a script that didn’t seem interesting at first glance. Moreover, Hill has already demonstrated his comedic abilities several times, notably in Superbad and Knocked Up.

That’s why he was one of the main reasons to go see Akiva Schaffer‘s The Watch. Alongside Hill, the cast included Richard Ayoade, Seth Rogen, and Evan Goldberg (the latter duo responsible for the screenplay). It promised to be really good, good enough that I overlooked Ben Stiller’s presence.

The Watch Ben Stiller Vince Vaughn Jonah Hill Richard Ayoade

The beginning was promising. Stiller, as always, played a slightly clumsy but well-meaning middle-aged man, Hill a youth combining life’s clumsiness with psychopathic tendencies, Aoyade – also a norm – as a strange Brit resembling a stereotypical IT worker, and Vaughn as a guy looking for an opportunity to get out of the house and have a few beers. Their paths crossed because of a brutal murder that took place in a local supermarket. Intrigued by the incident, Stiller decided to form the titular The Watch which, as one might guess, included all of the aforementioned. Initially, the team’s approach was unserious, but it changed when they discovered that the murderers were aliens.

The Watch Ben Stiller Jonah Hill Johnny Pemberton

From that moment, The Watch reveals its cards, showing us the intention of the whole cinematic endeavor. Checking off the obligatory points of such productions, the creators play with exaggerating the scheme. Within one script, there are threads characteristic of films that, for the sake of review, could be called “comedies of manners” (presenting the problems and fears of American suburban residents in a distorted mirror) and classic productions like Ghostbusters and Men in Black. The unusual collage is made with a keen awareness of cinematic craft. It’s clear that the people responsible for its creation are aware of their trade, but there’s a lack of sparkle in all of this. It’s good craftsmanship, not eye-catching, but solid nonetheless.

The Watch

The desire to play with schemes slipped out of the creators’ control. Focusing on inserting more elements typical of a certain type of American comedy into the film, they fell into the trap of schematism themselves. From the moment aliens appear in the movie and the convention shifts from “a tale of likable misfits from the suburbs” to “a story of how the misfits from the suburbs became ghost/alienbusters,” the audience realizes that the remaining part of the film will consist only of entangling more clichés. However, it’s important to remember that playing with clichés alone doesn’t ensure their breakthrough.

The Watch Ben Stiller Vince Vaughn Jonah Hill

Despite the actors’ solid performances and the lack of objections to the creators’ craftsmanship, The Watch unfortunately doesn’t fulfill its primary function – it’s not funny. Only a few short scenes evoke a smile; bursts of laughter are out of the question, which is a shame because the team’s potential promised something completely different. The Watch is like a Swiss army knife – well put together, but soberly not very amusing.