If there’s one thing The Watch does right, it’s setting the beginnings of a global holocaust at Costco. Amid flat-screen TVs, jumbo packs of condoms, and gargantuan buckets of Tide, we watch a Costco night watchman get devoured by a sinister, pus-dripping creature. What better place to set a scene of such potent terror than the monstrous, soul-sucking void that is America’s largest warehouse club?
But The Watch remains an unsettled mishmash of comedy and space-invaders suspense, and it’s just as ambivalent about the targets of its humor. There’s a little hint of bite in the script (which Seth Rogen co-wrote), but The Watch’s jaws never fully clench. Chipper, vacant-headed Evan (Ben Stiller) is the Costco manager who assembles a neighborhood watch in the wake of the guard’s death, as the local police sergeant (an always welcome Will Forte) doesn’t seem up to the challenge. Evan enlists a jolly bro-dude suburban dad named Bob (Vince Vaughn), a disturbed police-academy reject named Franklin (Jonah Hill), and an affable British chap named Jamarcus (The Mighty Boosh’s Richard Ayoade). Together this ragtag band of misfits attempts to ward off clichés as they track down the night watchman’s killer, soon discovering they might have an alien invasion on their hands.
And it’s all sort of fine. The Watch has a handful of chuckles here and there, most of which come either from Ayoade’s awkwardness or from Vaughn and Hill leaning heavily on their well-established screen personas—neither is acting so much as finding some comfortable ass-grooves on the couch. For once Stiller doesn’t overplay, and director Akiva Schaffer (Lonely Island) is happy to let his movie crouch happily in the shadows of much more successful high-concept comedies like Ghostbusters and Men in Black. Overall, though, The Watch feels like shopping at a big-box store. You get a bunch of Hollywood comedians all in one place, with a bit of sci-fi and action to boot. But despite the value it’s almost entirely devoid of personality and any sort of human touch. The Watch is an anonymous, interchangeable experience.