From left: Jonah Hill, Ben Stiller, Richard Ayoade and Vince Vaughn star as a neighborhood watch team in “The Watch,” from the Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. Photo by Melinda Sue Gordon

Stiller, Vaughn lend human touch to ‘The Watch’

Watching “The Watch” is a breath of fresh air when it comes to modern-day comedies. 

To say that a person’s taste in film is poor when compared to another’s is absolute nonsense.

Whatever you choose to enjoy as a moviegoer is up to you, but it’s become increasingly difficult to appreciate comedy films following the recent trends emphasizing drugs, sexuality and other crude material as the primary target of humor.

Some might question whether comedy no longer possesses its former ingenuity and instead has regressed to its more basic urges.

Fortunately, comedy groups are an excellent solution to this problem.

One of the more notable comedic groups is the so-called “Frat Pack,” that includes original members Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Will Ferrell, Steve Carrell, Jack Black, Owen Wilson and his brother Luke Wilson.

After nearly eight years of not having seen Ben Stiller or Vince Vaughn together on the big screen, it’s a relief to see them again as their usual hilarious selves.

Neither one seems to have lost their ability to appeal to the crowds’ insatiable appetite for a boatload of humor, while at the same time conveying the same social problems every “average Joe” experiences daily.

Evan Trautwig (Ben Stiller), a Costco manager, starts the neighborhood watch following the murder of his friend. His goal: To catch the killer. The only others to enlist in the watch program are Bob Finnerty (Vince Vaughn), Franklin (Jonah Hill), and Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade).

As the quartet scours the community for the killer, each person finds a way to use his time on watch as a temporary means of escaping the monotony of his personal life. However, when the men realize that the murder is actually connected to a sinister alien invasion plot that nobody seems to know or care about, they are forced to take action.

What is most interesting about Stiller and Vaughn’s screen time is how well they could invest their characters with a depth of humanity during the conversations they share in the midst of the fantastical events transpiring around them. These guys are funny for sure, but they are quite competent at being human, too.

Surprisingly, the film’s comical side blends well with the sci-fi elements as well.

Director Akiva Schaffer strikes a well-made balance between serious and funny. Speaking of which, the design of the aliens in the film are worth noting.

The casting choices of “The Watch” are top-notch. Stiller fuels his exaggerated presence with a vibrant energy, constantly moving forward in his pursuit to exude the funny side for which audiences recognize him. Vaughn’s fast delivery of lines bodes well for him, considering that he has the challenge of balancing his duties as a neighborhood watch member with his responsibilities as a parent.

As an actor, Hill continues to build off his momentum following roles in “Moneyball” and “21 Jump Street.”

The understated Richard Ayoade proves to be a welcome delight; his articulate speech patterns and composed demeanor provide a solid contrast to the more outrageous antics of his co-stars. And Billy Crudup is unexpectedly amusing in his portrayal of the creepy neighbor who lives near the home of Stiller’s character.

If you are on the lookout for a comedy film that can deliver copious amounts of gags, emotionality, and even a thrill or two without having to resort to extremely crude subject matter as a substitute source of laughter, then you might want to sign up for “The Watch.”