The Watch

Attack the Block is one of the best action-comedies of 2011, so it’s not surprising that Hollywood would come out with their own take on the theme. But what is surprising is that it doesn’t completely suck.

Evan (Ben Stiller) is a manager at the Costco store in Glenview, Ohio, but he’s also very involved in community activities and has started a number of clubs, like running and Spanish. When his store’s nighttime security guard meets a very gory death, Evan is hit hard and the best way he knows how to cope is by starting a neighborhood watch club. It doesn’t exactly get the kind of response he’s hoping for, but three people do show up. Franklin (Jonah Hill) has wanted to be a cop all his life but was rejected as mentally unstable. Bob (Vince Vaughn) is just looking for some guys to hang out with and drink. Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade, who plays Moss in the hilarious British television series The IT Crowd) hopes to encounter damsels in distress so that he can have sex with them.

The guys quickly become a laughingstock, both to the police (led by Sergeant Bressman, played by Will Forte), and to the community at large. They’re harassed, pranked, and threatened, but they continue undaunted, mostly due to Evan’s drive to discover what really happened in his store. And as they press on, they begin to find evidence that the killer may not be human, and may not be alone.

It’s not entirely fair to call The Watch a blatant rip-off of any one film because it has as much in common with The ‘Burbs as it does with Attack the Block. And because of its liberal borrowing from other source material, the story of The Watch is really nothing special. The few action scenes lack any real sense of excitement, and much of the comedy is pretty familiar. It seems like Stiller, Vaughn, and Hill are rehashing characters they’ve done over and over again, but not quite to the same effect. And to be fair, Ayoade’s character also feels a lot like what he’s done in The IT Crowd, but I want as much of that as I can possibly get so I’m completely on board with that.

Even if the movie isn’t particularly original, it still managed to get a few laughs out of me (and occasionally from someone other than Ayoade). There are a couple of good cameos that help add to the enjoyment, and even if it doesn’t do a very good job at disguising red herrings, they do sometimes go in pretty unexpected directions. It’s not the kind of movie that you need to think about to enjoy, and there’s a lot less unfamiliar slang and thick accents than in Attack the Block, so that should appease those who had a problem with those elements of the British film.