Editor’s Note: There is a mild spoiler contained in this review. It regards a twist every intelligent viewer will see coming several dozen miles away, and there is no reason any of you should see this disaster in the first place, but for those allergic to spoilers, fair-warning has been given.
I am quite frankly surprised Fox did not elect to release The Watch, their latest atrocious comedy, as Costco Presents ‘The Watch‘. The big box superstore factors so heavily into the very fabric of the film that when the action isn’t taking place on the warehouse floor, or when the camera isn’t literally lingering on long establishing shots of a Costco exterior, characters make sure to remind us, every few minutes, that Costco is wonderful, and we should all feel deeply blessed by the salvation discount bulk pricing provides us.
I not only imagine most of the film’s budget was covered by this one corporate sponsorship, but that Fox only commissioned the project after Costco offered the studio a lucrative product placement deal. There is no possible way The Watch was greenlit for creative reasons. The only way it could ever be viewed as ‘successful’ is as a vehicle for product placement. It has no well defined characters, quality performances, amusing humor, or actual story to speak of, but it does feature lots and lots of thinly veiled commercials for Costco, and 3D TVs, and expensive massage chairs, and Budweiser beer, and other products I will boycott vigorously until my dying day for their appearance in this irredeemable act of cinematic treachery.
I hate The Watch. I hate it with every last fiber of my being. I am offended to know that a movie this dull, a work this uninspired and utterly soulless, exists. I am insulted to even ponder the sheer, flippant audacity this abomination has to demand money from paying viewers. I so detest this wretched, callous act of unrepentant commercialism that when thoughts of things I love – like friends, or family, or pleasant midday strolls, or small adorable kittens – cross paths with memories of this film, those happy thoughts are deeply tainted, perhaps forever, stained with the aching remnants of darkness this so-called ‘comedy’ has wrought upon my now-fractured psyche.
The Watch is ostensibly the tale of four unlikely friends who band together to prevent an alien invasion, but even this slapdash synopsis gives the film too much credit. An alien invasion is an interesting occurrence. Nothing even remotely interesting, especially concerning the alien invaders, happens in The Watch. The film is so disinterested in its central extra-terrestrial conceit, in fact, that when one of the aliens explains the invasion to the protagonists, he has no motive to offer than “we’re aliens, that’s what we do.” I’m not oversimplifying things. That’s close to being a direct quote.
As an alien invasion story, The Watch has not one mildly imaginative or amusing idea to offer. Every single action the aliens take is deeply clichéd, presented without the slightest sign of sincerity or energy. Holding up the image of an alien from any other sci-fi film Hollywood has ever produced to a mirror would yield a more creative visual design than the one presented here. Asking any given Kindergartner ideas for what aliens might do if they came to earth would produce more inspired narrative events than the ones featured in The Watch. Glancing momentarily into the night sky will give you more insight into extra-terrestrial concepts than this 90-minute film is able to provide.
Most notably, the high sci-fi concept isn’t even able to produce a single, solitary laugh from start to finish. How could it, when the characters themselves are so unfunny, so flat, lifeless, and dull that they bear more resemblance to black holes – gaping, cavernous rifts in spacetime from which not even the strongest of lights can escape – than they do to interesting or entertaining protagonists?
To say these characters are poorly defined would be a severe abuse of the English language. These figures are not even fleshed out enough to count as ‘types.’ Jonah Hill’s character is somewhat intense. That’s it. Richard Ayoade’s character is a little bit weird, and nothing more than that. Ben Stiller’s character is mildly clueless and slightly controlling. That’s where his characterization stops. Vince Vaughn’s character is a little bit…um…well…I actually have no honest idea how to describe his character, because he has no character. He’s just there. Vaughn does his loud, fast-talking jibber-jabber shtick, but that’s not a character. Not in the slightest.
Though I have liked these performers in other works, each is agonizingly unfunny here, succeeding only as massive charisma vacuums. They are unappealing apart, and they are even more miserable together, where in lieu of quality-scripted comedy or genuine narrative progression, each scene sees them shouting dreadfully bad dialogue and hideously humorless jokes over each other at the top of their lungs. Sometimes, attempts at thin character building are made, each more asinine and disingenuous than the last, while the urge to shove a fork in one’s eye to ease the pain the film causes steadily grows.
The film is also grossly homophobic and offensively xenophobic, with every person who is not strictly Caucasian deeply stereotyped and defined entirely by what the film views as amusing racial differences. It did not surprise me one iota when Ayoade, the lone African-American character, is revealed to be an undercover alien. The film works hard, from start to finish, to hammer home the point that, because this man is black, he is clearly different from the rest of ‘us.’ And if his skin has already set him apart that much, why not just make him an alien, and draw the lines in the sand as firmly as ever?
This is a despicable film. If the overt ethical issues do not concern you, the crass commercialism and blatant contempt for the viewer certainly will. The Watch is not a film. It is a product, manufactured to hit clear demographic targets and produced with as little effort as possible. It exists solely to sell tickets to unsuspecting moviegoers, and offers nothing in return but a long, lifeless, impossibly dull waste of celluloid.