Some films never really escape development hell, and “The Watch” spent four miserable years stuck in rewrites and recastings before finally limping into cinemas just in time for its marketing to be hastily pulled in the wake of real life tragedy. In retrospect, they should have just let this slip ignominiously to a quiet direct-to-DVD graveyard.
Following the murder of a security guard at the local Costco store, uptight store manager and self-styled pillar of the community Evan forms a neighbourhood watch to keep the neighbourhood safe. Assembling a ragtag crew of neighbourhood misfits, Evan discovers that his suburban paradise is in much more danger than he realised: it’s ground zero for an alien invasion.
There’s an unmistakable aroma of focus-group driven interference and filmmaking by committee in “The Watch”. Despite its built-in family friendly premise, it’s been clumsily retasked to be a needlessly sweary and violent adult comedy. Although there are sequences where you can see the usual Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg touches in the final draft of the script, it clearly wasn’t good enough for Rogen to appear in the project himself.
None of the rewrites appear to have been clean or complete and as a result the whole film feels cobbled together from various drafts and then further butchered in the cutting room. Each of the four main characters retain bits and pieces of subplots which are universally underdeveloped and largely inconsequential while simultaneously achieving the dubiously impressive feat of each being unlikeable in their own unique way. By about an hour into it, I was rooting for the aliens to win.
None of the principle cast stray an inch outside their comfort zones here, each bringing a phoned-in regurgitation of their usual comedy schtick to the party and the result is so disconnected, I’m not sure they all knew they were appearing in the same film. It’s so bad that some scenes seem like they were filmed individually against a greenscreen then composited together.
Puerile, predictable, flat and lifeless, “The Watch” is a textbook example of a missed opportunity. With a more likeable cast, a cleverer script and a more appealing tone, this could have ended up being more like a modern spin on “The ‘Burbs” rather than the sub-“Evolution” misfire that it is.