The Watch, an ensemble comedy with a science fiction twist, sees stars Ben Stiller, Jonah Hill, Vince Vaughn and Richard Ayoade unite to save small town Ohio.

When a local security guard is murdered, Costco’s serious but bland senior manager, Evan (Ben Stiller), forms a neighbourhood watch to find the killer. But Evan who’s keen to set up community clubs and expand his social circle – he’s ‘on the market‘ for an array of ethnically diverse friends – is not best suited to leading a team. In this somewhat stiff and dull role Stiller has a tough task but manages to keep the movie bubbling steadily along.

After Evan’s appeal for Watch members at a local football game, things should get better with the injection to the neighbourhood watch mix of a rejected police force applicant, Franklin (Jonah Hill), an over-protective but laddish father, Bob (Vince Vaughn), and an oddball Brit, Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade). As this unlikely team discover aliens are at large in their treasured neighbourhood, The Watch should be a hotbed of laughs. But while Vaughn delivers his gags with gusto, the results are hit and miss, with one of his best moments coming when his character is amazed by a set of Russian nesting dolls. Jonah Hill has a few good gags too but there’s nothing surprising on offer. We’ve seen Hill in similar roles before – Franklin’s weirdness has an undercurrent of vulnerability and a desire to succeed not dissimilar to his character in the hugely successful 21 Jump Street – and in comparison, The Watch is plainly disappointing.

Recycled characters and an excess of silly, crude gags make for a disappointing comedy

With a skilled cast whose talents are largely wasted, the main problem with The Watch is the script. The best of the humour is based on everyday observations – from language differences to frustrations with product packaging. But there’s just not enough of this material and instead the movie degenerates into countless penis jokes. Written by Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg – the writing duo that brought us the sharp and hilariously funny Superbad – The Watch should have been so much better.

Recycled characters and an excess of silly, crude gags make for a disappointing comedy in The Watch. While there are some laughs to be had in this average jaunt from Rogan and Goldberg, it feels like a waste of its talented cast.

VERDICT: ✭ ✭ ✩ ✩ ✩

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