‘The Watch' is a bit of a step back for usually consistent writers

Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogan have created quite a writing tandem. Starting with Superbad, they showed a ton of promise; then came Pineapple Express—and their legend was borne. The action-stoner-comedy put them up on a pedestal because they’d created a benchmark, something by which any following imitation—good luck with that—would be judged.

Following that high-water mark, The Green Hornet released a 3-D feature into their ever-growing, constantly-expanding repertoire. Goldberg and Rogan even have a film in the works in which they’ll co-write as well as co-direct entitled The End of the World, so the sky’s the limit for these two. Right after we all get over the failure known as The Watch, their latest writing endeavor.

More than a minor bump along the road, The Watch has the promise of something that fulfills the brand to which we’ve become accustomed: Neighborhood watch formed by four seemingly memorable characters, played by four more-than capable comedic actors, that end up attempting to stop an alien invasion from happening in suburban Ohio; good, good and good—right? Sadly wrong however.

With Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill and Richard Ayoade, alone, The Watch should be home free, but something’s oddly amiss.

Could it be that this is the least qualified director with whom the two screenwriters have worked in Akiva Schaffer (Hot Rod and SNL contributions of both writing and directing)? Or, maybe the fact that they’ve invited a third writer to help out in forming the script in Jared Stern?

One can try to play connect the dot for hours, and attempt to lay blame at someone’s feet, yet all seems rather frivolous because The Watch really is that forgettable.

Ben Stiller plays Evan, the man responsible for forming the neighborhood watch after a night-shift security guard at the place where he works (he’s manager of a Costco) is found dead one morning, so he creates the group to find the man’s killer. Stiller’s Evan doesn’t have one funny line, scene or moment that comes to mind—a fact that’s hard to stomach, considering he’s basically the lead.

Vince Vaughn, as Bob, is really the only one of the four that comes up smelling like roses, for he’s the only well-written primary piece. Bob’s got teenage daughter problems—a two-fold back-and-forth of the most humorous variety—and the only real part of the narrative with any sense of human emotion—shared between Vaughn and Erin Moriarty—because of his daughter Chelsea’s boyfriend, Jason, portrayed by Nicholas Braun with devilish ease, has only one thing on his mind.

Everything involving Vaughn is one of the few highlights of The Watch. It could be because we haven’t seen him in a R-rated comedy since Wedding Crashers, or it could just be the fact that he’s born for the edgy adult comedy, no matter how sub-par in nature.

Jonah Hill plays Franklin, a reject from the local police force with an axe to grind, but other than that, nothing else registers; Richard Ayoade is given the bit part of Jamarcus, a British import that wants to help out within his new neighborhood, yet his relatively limited screen time works wonders, until an odd twist in his character sends us immediately into a frenzy.

Other bit parts from actors like Billy Crudup, R. Lee Ermey and Rosemarie DeWitt as Evan’s wife Abby are quality additions never fully utilized, and therefore eternally frustrating.

By the time The Watch is coming down the homestretch, you’ll be reaching for the dump button, and then wondering like all those who’ve seen it what could have been.