Remember those old commercials for Certs? “It’s a breath mint,” they’d say. No, “it’s a candy mint.” It was really “two…two…two mints in one.” I bring this up because the new film “The Watch” is like a Certs. Actually many Certs.
Evan (Stiller) is the guy every neighborhood has. Friendly and outgoing, Evan is eager to do anything and everything for his neighbors. He prides himself on his diversity. He includes among his friends a man from India and a Korean woman. He still doesn’t have any black friends but he’s working on it. Evan manages the local COSTCO store and seems to have the perfect life. And when tragedy strikes, it’s up to him to…..WHOA! I know just now you re-read this paragraph and mumbled to yourself, “tragedy? I thought this was a comedy.” It is. And a horror film. And a relationship drama. Have a Certs!
Sometimes side-splittingly funny, “The Watch” goes off in so many different directions that the pitch meeting must have sounded like, “it’s “The Burbs” meets “Alien” meets “Men In Black” meets “The Hangover” meets God knows what else. The film seems to have borrowed from every popular genre’ of the past 30 years. Which can lead to a film that’s occasionally hilarious but mostly uneven. The blame for this falls directly on the shoulders of script writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (who gave us the much better “Superbad”) with an assist from Jared Stern. It’s almost as if they were just throwing out ideas and incorporated them into one story.
On the plus side (the comedy side) the cast is first rate. Stiller has perfected the comic “everyman” persona and is in fine form here. Vaughn also plays off of his strength, that of the wise ass who seems to have everything (think “Old School”). Hill seems to still be in “21 Jump Street” mode as a wanna-be cop regulated to patrolling the neighborhood. Completing the quartet of “watchers” is Richard Ayoade, a very talented Brit filmmaker whose 2010 film “Submarine” was executive-produced by Stiller. Supporting work by R. Lee Ermey and a very creepy (and unbilled) Billy Crudup add to the laughs. On the minus side, you have an alien invasion story that includes some pretty graphic killings. You also have Stiller and his wife trying to have a baby while Vaughn frets about making sure his young teenage daughter doesn’t. I will say this – you get a lot thrown at you in an hour and a half. It’s up to you to decide what to catch.