This July 27, Fox is set to release Neighborhood Watch, a sci-fi comedy that follows four suburban men who escape their family lives by forming a community watch group. Along the way, the four men — played by Vince Vaughn, Ben Stiller, Jonah Hill and Richard Ayoade — discover an alien ploy to destroy Earth.
Given the current tensions surrounding community watch participant George Zimmerman, Fox began a phased withdrawal of trailers and advertising materials last month in an effort to distance the comedy from the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
According to the New York Times, in a statement following the cancellation of the trailer, a Fox spokesperson said, “Our film is a broad alien invasion comedy and bears absolutely no relation to the tragic events in Florida.”
However, Fox is clearly erring on the side of caution, pulling the image of a bullet-riddled neighborhood watch sign where possible and likening the movie to Ghostbusters. An anonymous source that spoke with the Times said the next step is to focus on the aspect that might otherwise not have been revealed: aliens.
Often times, film execs have chosen to hold strong when movies are on a crash course with current events. In 2006, Disney chose to release Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto four months after the director went into an anti-Semitic rant during a drunk-driving arrest. The studio tried to distinguish between the director’s persona and his art.
Dennis Rice, a film-marketing consultant who was Disney’s chief marketer for the Apocalypto release, advises caution and maintains that now “you err on the side of being very sensitive.”