The still-raw controversy surrounding the death of Trayvon Martin, the black Florida teen who was shot and killed last month by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman, is complicating the marketing and release for the upcoming Fox movie Neighborhood Watch. The comedy, about suburban dads who form a neighborhood watch group that must thwart an alien invasion, stars Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, and Jonah Hill, and is set to be released July 27. Out of deference to the controversy, the studio is yanking the film's bullet-riddled poster (see it to the right) and trailer (watch it below), which shows Hill's character using his hand to pretend to shoot a group of teenagers. "We are very sensitive to the Trayvon Martin case, but our film is a broad alien-invasion comedy and bears absolutely no relation to the tragic events in Florida," a Fox spokesperson says. How should the movie handle its predicament?
This is exactly the right approach: The film's July release is still months away, so pausing to reassess the marketing in the wake of the Trayvon Martin story is both necessary and smart, says Katey Rich at Cinema Blend. "They won't lose much buzz," and producers can always launch a new campaign with a different focus leading into the summer months. "Obviously the Martin/Zimmerman case has nothing to do" with Neighborhood Watch. And "thanks to Fox's smart move, it never will."
"Fox pulls Neighborhood Watch marketing in wake of Trayvon Martin case"
It's too little, too late: Apparently, "stopping a summer movie's marketing campaign after it has been unleashed is like trying to recall an avalanche," says Robert Johnson at My San Antonio. The Neighborhood Watch poster was released three days after Martin was actually shot to death, so you'd think someone in the film's marketing department would have yanked it weeks ago as the story gained traction — "and especially before multiplexes were packed with Hunger Games fans last weekend." Coming a month after the shooting, this seems like a "tone-deaf way to sell the movie."
"Movie notes: Neighborhood Watch needs to start from scratch"
And the film itself is in trouble: This might not stop at Fox's decision to pull the movie's marketing, says Roger Friedman at Forbes. The entire release is in danger. Zimmerman has not been charged or arrested, but if he is, the case could drag on all the way to July, when Neighborhood Watch is scheduled to be released. This is a $70 million film expected to rake in more than $100 million on the backs of its A-list cast. What a disaster for Fox.
"After Trayvon Martin, will Fox pull Ben Stiller comedy Neighborhood Watch?"
Maybe this will teach us a lesson: "It's worth interrogating why we find images of over-the-top approaches to law enforcement funny or compelling" in the first place, says Alyssa Rosenberg at Think Progress. In 21 Jump Street, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum's characters hubristically fire their guns in the air in the middle of a peaceful public park. Certain Law & Order: Special Victims Unit scenes in which Elliot Stabler beats up suspects are meant to be funny. But "it's not laughable when this sense of puffed-up bravado is played out in the real world." It's dangerous.
"In the wake of Trayvon Martin's death, Fox pulls its marketing for alien invasion comedy Neighborhood Watch"