The Watch


Seth Rogen once suggested that the idea of making Ghostbusters 3 sounded like a “terrible idea,” which pretty much establishes the man’s acuity at identifying really terrible ideas. Good job, Seth Rogen! His script for Akiva Schaffer’s The Watch, co-written with his Pineapple Express collaborator Evan Goldberg along with Jared Stern, makes a nod in the direction of Ivan Reitman’s 1984 classic with a sharp comic ensemble of regular dudes confronted with an apocalypse of unearthly origin—in this case, space aliens. Anxious control freak Evan (Ben Stiller), a Costco manager, finds his warehouse outlet roped off as a murder scene by police after the night watchman is viciously murdered and flayed. Community-minded and a compulsive organizer of clubs, he establishes a neighborhood watch with Bob (Vince Vaughn), a suburban dad with low impulse control; high school dropout and police-academy reject Franklin (Jonah Hill); and British expatriate Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade), who hopes to meet girls. Instead of the prowlers and muggers they expect to confront, they find aliens killing suburbanites and stealing their skins. Like the Ghostbusters, they have a logo-festooned uniform—matching satin jackets from the mall, just like the cinematic street gangs of the 1950s. Also like Ghostbusters, the buddy comedy becomes an action comedy in the third act. Much of the humor is Apatow-coterie raunch, involving alien semen, a suburban orgy scene, a bunch of cock jokes, and the trademark staccato profanity of the venerable R. Lee Ermey. Comedy nerds will recognize Ayoade from Channel 4’s Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace and The IT Crowd. As Larry King might say, he is comedy dynamite, punctuating scenes with dry asides and semi-innocent charm, one of many original features in a not-totally-original film. Chris Packham