Some movies are such oddball conglomerates of ideas that don’t necessarily belong together they can feel like recipes gone bad. We wonder, in retrospect, where the flavor train got derailed. In the case of the mutant sci-fi/suburban-angst comedy The Watch, a film that, despite the occasional bad-boy charm, generally fizzles into nothingness, the mind reels back and imagines mishaps in the conceptual kitchen. In the script, partly written by Seth Rogen, the problem and the promise may have begun with the notion of an alien invasion taking root at Costco.
Well trained in sighting clichés from our years in the multiplex, we know something otherworldly is afoot with the first appearance of green slime. But the alien factor keeps slipping in and out of focus in the movie’s plot playground. “The Watch” in question is a men’s club and neighborhood watch “task force” in a quiet suburban town suddenly interrupted by strange murderous forces. (In fact, the film’s release was delayed out of sensitivity to the death of Floridian Trayvon Martin, who was killed by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman.)
In this movie watchman club, Ben Stiller plays the straight man and more uptight captain in a motley crew of suburbanites with assorted issues. His allies include straight-talking dude with the righteous man cave (Vince Vaughan), a young, frustrated, and fairly clueless wannabe cop (Jonah Hill), and a British black man (Richard Ayoade, a refreshing new face in the existing comedy posse).
Some of the tangy left-field treats along the murky path of misfiring jokes and miswired narratives come from Hill, in a role somewhat related to his law-enforcement hero in the recent (and far superior) 21 Jump Street. For some reason, for instance, it’s a distinct lowbrow thrill to hear Hill, in a Costco melee, bellowing the line “Lock and load, bitches. Anything from outer space — kill it!” Or maybe we’re just hungry for something — anything — to break the deafening silence of comedy desperately seeking kick.