What happens when you toss Attack the Block, some Judd Apatow man-child pictures and a Costco commercial in a blender and hit “Generify”? You wind up with a bland, watered down product like The Watch, a shaggy dog alien invasion comedy that aims for weird, wild and wacky territory, yet stalls out with a gasp in the middle of the road. Who would have guessed the sight of Vince Vaughn tenderly tongue-kissing the corpse of a green pincered extraterrestrial Pumpkinhead clone would feel so mundane? Not I, for one.
Vaughn’s loutish Bob is just one of the Glenview, Ohio nincompoops rallied together by anal-retentive, hyper-PC Costco manager Evan (Ben Stiller) after a mysterious attack leaves one of the mega-store’s security guards sans skin. Battling uncooperative police and an apathetic public, the newly formed neighbourhood watch group, which also includes borderline-deranged high-school dropout Franklin (Jonah Hill), and afro’d introvert Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade), inadvertently begins investigating a series of close encounters of the slimy and cow-splattering kind. Can they settle their combustible group dynamics and personal crises long enough to take down the town’s aspiring new reptilian overlords?
Despite a promising opening, Hot Rod helmer Akiva Schaffer’s film quickly loses sight of its raunchy V riff ambitions, filling time with amusing, if unfocused (improvised?), dick joke-filled banter and superfluous subplots involving Stiller’s sterile sperm and Vaughn’s creepy obsession with his daughter’s burgeoning sexuality. The reliable comic star power, and supporting turns by unsettling neighbour, Billy Crudup, and buffoonish cop, Will Forte, ease the bumpy journey, but there’s no bizarro spark or momentum. By the time the routine action climax kicks in, it feels obligatory, not necessary.
To see such a fantastic collection of talent toiling in such unconfident paper-thin material is disheartening. In better hands, this might have been a fun gross-out variation on the Ghostbusters formula instead of a forgettable misfired opportunity. Alas, despite its gooey sci-fi trappings, The Watch couldn’t be any more earthbound.