A few days ago I watched the 2012 movie The Watch. Here’s the premise: Aliens that can steal skins and walk among us unnoticed invade a small Ohio town. The only thing that stands between them and world domination is neighborhood watch led by Ben Stiller. I still think there are a lot of fun ideas there, and this could have been a fantastic comedy. Instead, it was predictable, disappointing, and at times even infuriating. They had so many opportunities in this film to not only be really funny but also talk about big important issues. The more I think about it, the more I’m upset about this movie. It’s no surprise it only has a 16% on Rotten Tomatoes!
Before I really get going on my rant, I want to say that there are a few things that worked in this movie. I liked Will Forte as the small town cop, I liked the one or two times that they had callbacks to earlier lines in the film, and there were a few moments that were really funny. I think it’s great that they tried to give each of the guys in the group an arc, however how small. It isn’t ALL bad, but I think the things that are bad in this film are enough to outweigh the good.
Here we go.
Ben Stiller’s relationship with his wife
This was one of my biggest beefs with the film. Evan, played by Ben Stiller, is having problems with his wife. They’re trying to have a child, but things aren’t going so well. He confesses to one of his new neighborhood watch buddies that he secretly went to a doctor MONTHS before and found out that he’s sterile. He keeps this from his wife and begins avoiding sex with her. Eventually he let’s her know what’s going on and she…forgives him immediately.
There is no point where the wife, or the movie, says to Ben Stiller “your behavior was wrong.” I think the initial premise of the conflict could be really interesting. I’m sure that trying to have a child and finding out that you’re infertile is a heartbreaking, difficult experience for any person or couple to go through. Instead of exploring the ways they could handle this roadblock in their lives, the movie ignores it. The wife forgives him without a second thought and all is well.
Abby (The Wife)
In the movie Abby pretty much only serves as Evan’s conflict. She doesn’t get much of a personality and we never see her doing anything other than being with Evan and trying to have a baby. Well, there is one scene where she complains to a friend about how Evan’s been treating her…but that gets erased moments later when she forgives him.
You know what would have been cool? If Abby had been in The Neighborhood Watch from the beginning. Why couldn’t she help her husband patrol the streets? She has just as much invested in the town as Evan does. It would have let the movie show her personality and expand on Evan and Abby’s relationship. I would have been so on board with a movie with a husband/wife team in charge of a neighborhood watch group.
Vince Vaughn and his daughter
One of the other major plot lines in this movie is Bob (Vince Vaughn) and his relationship with his daughter. She’s a teenager, she wants to date and go to parties. He’s an overprotective father. This culminates in a scene where he crashes a party where she’s in a bedroom with her boyfriend. Since she wasn’t very happy about the bedroom action, she’s glad her dad showed up. He saved the day, she learned her lesson.
There are so many things wrong here. I understand that a parent might be overprotective of their kid. But he does not own her sexuality. If it was a boy instead of a girl, he would have been cheering him own. Why couldn’t that plot line have ended with her wanting to have sex with her boyfriend, being really upset that her father walked in on them, and him learning to respect her privacy? It’s another plot in this movie that started out really interesting with a lot of potential, but failed miserably at being anything new or interesting. This could have been a great look at father daughter relationships and how they deal with the daughter growing up and becoming a woman.
The major theme throughout this whole movie is fear of the other. Richard Ayoade who was wonderful in the IT Crowd and doesn’t get nearly enough to do in this movie, turns out to be an alien. So he’s a foreign, black, nerdy alien.
I do really like the idea of one of the neighborhood watch being an alien. I like the idea of a scary alien masquerading as one of us. It’s scary, and I think it could really be played for laughs with the right jokes and actors. Throughout the entire movie I was hoping that Bob would turn out to be the alien. He mentioned he was new in town, we saw him scoping out the Costco before the first murder, and his daughter screams that she “hates it here.” I wanted SO badly for them to be some kind of 3rd Rock From the Sun type of family. It would have been a fun twist, and it would have helped explore some of the issues mentioned above.
But nope, it was the guy who was already SO different from the rest of the group. Of course they should fear him, he’s an alien all along! He does end up switching sides and saving the day, but it really seemed unnecessary to me that HE was the one that was an alien.
So, the only way to defeat the aliens is by punching their dicks.
You heard me.
Does this mean there are no female aliens? Or that they just left all of the female aliens at home? If the only way to defeat them is by attacking their dicks, why not send the apparently invincible female aliens to take over the planet?
I had more problems with the film, but this sums up most of the major things that upset me.
So to sum it all up, the filmmakers seemed to forget that there was any perspective to think about other than the white middle aged male. Women and minorities are handled terribly here, and it leads to a lot of disappointment. This could have been a fantastic, hilarious, insightful comedy that took a look at American culture, family relationships, and fear of the other. Instead it’s this pile of mess.