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Review: The Watch

Sometimes in life, it's necessary for people to take a stand. It could be for yourself, it could be for others or maybe you're just standing up for something that you believe in. Regardless of why you might be choosing to take this stand, it's admirable if you're doing for all the right reasons. It's too bad that I can't say that about the guys in The Watch.

For a multitude of reasons (most of which have to do with just getting out of the house), four neighbors decide to ban together and form a neighborhood watch group. They're expecting just to keep an eye on their town while making sure to have some fun in the process. That's how it starts, but they soon run into what they believe to be is an alien invasion that has the threat of potentially taking over the world while using their town as a starting point for their plan. After their Earth shattering discover, the group knows that they must do all they can to stop the invasion and save the planet from sure destruction.

After an "invigorating" speech from Evan (Ben Stiller) where we're introduced to some of the main characters, we eventually join this neighborhood watch group that's patrolling the streets for the sake of everyone in the neighborhood. Hilarity ensues almost immediately once they run into people who seem to be causing havoc on the mean streets of suburbia. Not only do they have to go face to face with vicious criminals like a mean group of adolescent boys that they cross paths with, they also have to deal with some stiff competition from a police force that doesn't take them seriously.

Fighting crime and direct opposition from the cops is tough enough, but adding aliens and strange neighbors to the fold just makes things that much more difficult for the foursome. Much of the story that's shown in The Watch uses these two major factors as its backbone with the alien invasion easily being the number one subject. When you're talking about the film as a whole though, the comedy is king.

That shouldn't come as a shock to anyone who knows a bit about this movie and if that's what you're looking for, you'll get it in spades here. In describing The Watch, saying that it's a typical comedy wouldn't give its potential audience a proper view of what they're in store for. Comedy completely rules the day here and that's easily the most important aspect of the film. Most of this comedy is more of the verbal type. There's definitely some physical comedy, but it's not close to the amount of verbal stuff in general. I say that these verbal interactions between the various characters is what makes The Watch what it is.

The attempts at grabbing laughs from the audience starts from the very beginning and continues all the way through with almost no breathes in between. As you should be able to recognize based on the R rating that it receives (and earns), the types of jokes that are being utilized are extremely vulgar and contain things that you might hear if you're hanging around a bunch of guys who are just having a good time trying to make each other laugh. The Watch is sophomoric, crude and for adults who don't mind a little immaturity from time to time.

With the clear connections that these characters have with one another, all of this goes off without a hitch and most of it seems natural and feels like it is being said off the top of their heads. For all I know, all of the leading cast members may hate each other in real life, but there does seem to be a certain chemistry with these guys and it's not hard to see because of how everything is executed. That level of comfort makes all of the comedy and character interactions between these guys run smoothly.

In terms of the consistent dirty jokes and attempts at drawing out non-stop laughter from the viewers, The Watch reminds me a bit of Ted in a sense. I remember in my review about Ted I said something about this approach working for them, because it hide's the film's flaws and its overall lack of a story. The Watch has that same style, but it separates itself from Ted, because their creators actually make some legitimate attempts a story building.

These guys have their own lives outside of their duties as neighborhood watchmen. We witness that with Bob (Vince Vaughn) worrying about his young daughter as she seems to be growing up too fast for his liking. We also get to learn about Evan, his personal life and some of the major issues that go along with it. The desire to rely on other things besides jokes by building lives for these guys and making the neighbors more than just cardboard cutouts makes these characters better than the ones we see in Ted. I liked Seth McFarlane's movie and this is not a knock on it. I'm simply pointing out some differences in movies with similar styles and why I favor one (The Watch) over the other (Ted).

Not only does it remind me of Ted, but for a different reason, it also reminds me of my favorite comedy so far in 2012 in 21 Jump Street. Not because they both star Jonah Hill, but more so the way it's presented through the trailers and what actually happens in the movie. Like 21 Jump Street, the trailers for The Watch aren't that good and they don't show you much. Because of this approach, the movie is more entertaining and they don't spoil the surprises that you're actually going to see. I welcome this because it makes so many good scenes better and more memorable when you don't see what's coming.

How The Watch came to be what it is, is an interesting story in itself. As a film, it has seen some significant changes since the time that was originally being developed. It was originally intended to be geared toward teenagers and it was going to be rated PG-13 until Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg came on to take over the writing duties. Thankfully, they turned it into the R rated fun fest that we see on the screen as its finished product.

There were also changes made due to the Trayvon Martin tragedy that occurred about five months before its release. They changed the name from Neighborhood Watch to The Watch and they were going to promote the film differently. The focus was first placed on the leads and not the alien invasion, but they changed it for obvious reasons. It wouldn't have been a smart or respectful to promote a movie showing members of a neighborhood watch group hounding and harassing kids when you just had an idiot pretending to be a leader of a neighborhood watch end someone's life over nothing.

One set of changes was made for the actual movie itself. Of course I haven't seen what it was supposed to be, but I like what the final cut that ended up with. The other set of changes were made with the hopes of distancing themselves from a tragic and disturbing news story. With all of the changes that came to The Watch during its time in development, we still get a movie that's brought to the people with the hopes of it being funny and enjoyable. From revamping the script, avoiding any negative connections and making an entertaining movie I think they accomplished all of that and it's certainly something worth watching.

Score: 3/5

Rating: R

Director: Akiva Schaffer

Ben Stiller
Vince Vaughn
Jonah Hill
Richard Ayoade
Rosemarie DeWitt

Film Length: 98 minutes

Release Date: July 27, 2012

Distributor: 20th Century Fox

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