Released this summer to a great deal of hype, The Watch is one of those films that had “surefire hit” written all over it. Unfortunately, the film fails live up to the standards of any of its stars and the movie is a dud. When you have a comedy starring Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill and the great Richard Ayoade (The I.T. Crowd), you expect some legitimate laughs, regardless of the quality of the script. Well, the script is pretty tepid in The Watch, and the laughs are few and far between.
Stiller plays Evan, a small town overachiever from Ohio who manages the local Costco. He also oversees multiple community organizations and is married to a very understanding wife (played by the always welcome Rosemarie Dewitt). When the night manager of his Costco is murdered and the local cops show little interest in tracking down the killers, Evan forms a neighborhood watch group to solve the crime. He only manages to recruit three other guys: Bob (Vaughn), a father looking for some buds to hang out with in his tripped up man cave; Franklin (Hill) a high school drop-out who still lives with his mom and dreams of becoming a cop; and Jamarcus (Ayoade), a recent divorcee who envisions meeting women through the neighborhood watch.
As the men begin spending time together, they become friends and uncover and alien invasion. While the guys try to figure out what to do about the aliens, Evan struggles with a secret he’s harboring from his wife and Bob tries to remain calm while his comely teenage daughter begins dating hormonal teenage guys. Oh, and there are plenty of dick jokes. Between this film, 21 Jump Street and Superbad, Jonah Hill has cornered the market on homoerotic penis humor. If only he was funny in The Watch. If only any stars were funny. Whether it was the script or the overabundance of improv, The Watch is nearly unwatchable.
The saving graces are the dramatic aspects of the film. Yes, you heard me, the drama. Far more interesting than the aliens and the green goo that looks and tastes like ejaculation, are Evan’s insecurity about being infertile and Ben’s protective/loving nature for his daughter. I actually wish the film had had the courage to explore those plots a little more.
High expectations doomed The Watch for the viewing public, but low expectations are what made Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure a sleeper hit in the winter of ’89. This goofy, low budget comedy came out of nowhere and found a place in the hearts of audiences around the world. Like most people, when I walked into a locally run movie theater to see it one night during my college years, I anticipated a stupid movie that might give me a couple laughs for the five bucks I paid to get in. I never expected to fall in love with the two big hearted dopes on screen played by then unknown actors, Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves.
Bill S. Preston, Esq. (Winter) and “Ted” Theodore Logan (Reeves) are high school buddies on the verge of flunking History. If Ted flunks, his dad will send him to military school. This will destroy the boys’ plans to become the world’s greatest rock band, Wyld Stallyns. It’s no joke; Wyld Stallyns are destined to become one of the most influential acts ever, as we learn from time traveler, Rufus (George Carlin), who comes from future in a phone booth time machine to help the boys get a passing grade. Thanks to Rufus, Bill and Ted zip through history and collect important people, such as Socrates, Billy the Kid and Lincoln, to help them with a presentation in front of the entire school. It’s just as ridiculous as it sounds, yet it’s all great fun.
Perhaps low expectations may have made Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure enjoyable the first time around, but the film’s success during its theatrical run (spawning a 1991 sequel, two TV series, and another film in development) and its growth as a cult film in the succeeding years are a direct result of the movie’s big heart. The film may be clunky in spots and the budget may have limited the effects, but Winter and Reeves play their roles with a charm that The Watch is lacking. Sometimes charm and cheap sci-fi effects are ten times better than a huge budget.
After two decades, Bill & Ted remains just as fun and enjoyable as it was back in the day. I must admit that I anticipated not enjoying the movie after so much time, thinking I’d “matured” since I originally saw it. I was so wrong. I may have matured, but the film still works for me and, even better, it looks great on Blu-ray. If you’re in the mood for silly, sci-fi fun, go with the classic Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and stay away from The Watch.