A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Watch is a raunchy sci-fi comedy about four suburban guys (including Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, and Jonah Hill) who end up taking on an alien invasion. There's some blood and gore, as well as sci-fi shootouts. Expect lots of sexual content, including nudity (toplessness), an orgy scene, implied mutual masturbation, and rampant sexual innuendo. Language is equally strong and constant, with "f--k" and "s--t" both used frequently. Characters drink a lot, and some take drugs. Consumerism is also a big issue, as the movie feels like a huge ad for Costco. The movie made the news in February 2012, when its marketing campaign coincided with a fatal shooting in Florida by a real-life neighborhood watch captain. The movie's marketing and title (formerly Neighborhood Watch) were quickly changed.
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What's the story?
Evan (Ben Stiller) is the manager of a Costco in a sleepy little Ohio town. After his night watchman is brutally murdered, Evan decides to form a neighborhood watch to find the killer. Loudmouth Bob (Vince Vaughn), police force reject Franklin (Jonah Hill), and oddball Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade) sign up. But instead of the normal murder clues, the group instead finds weird tentacles, green goo, and a powerful laser blaster. Before long, they realize that they're up against sinister aliens. Can the foursome set aside their personal troubles long enough to band together and find a way to stop Earth from being taken over?
Is it any good?
Director Akiva Schaffer (Hot Rod) doesn't seem to know what to do with this material. THE WATCH lashes out all over the place, trying out gore, rude humor, character development, sexual situations, and product placement by turns. It's as if the filmmakers were more concerned with the MPAA rating than with the audience. As a result, the movie follows in the footsteps of so many other alien invasion movies: It doesn't really work.
Stiller plays his usual uptight schnook here, and the movie spends a great deal of time on a subplot about him and his wife trying to get pregnant; this stuff seems to have been added more to please the actor than to add anything to the story. Likewise, neither Vaughn nor Hill stretches much outside their usual routines, and the only laughs come from lines that sound more like on-the-spot improv than anything written in the screenplay. Sci-fi fans will be the most disappointed: The aliens are the most boring things in the movie.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about The Watch's violence. What's the effect of showing bloody carnage in a comedy? Does it make the movie funnier? Less funny? How does it compare to the impact of the violence in, for example, horror movies?
Why do you think sex is such a big subplot in this movie? In what ways does The Watch talk about sex in a realistic way? In what ways is it simply trying to be shocking?
Can these characters be described as "men-children"? Why are so many movies made about these types of characters? Are they believable?
- In theaters: July 27, 2012
- On DVD or streaming: November 13, 2012
- Cast: Ben Stiller, Jonah Hill, Vince Vaughn
- Director: Akiva Schaffer
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Space and Aliens
- Run time: 93 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: some strong sexual content including references, pervasive language and violent images
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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