Film producer Shawn Levy has changed the movie title from ''Neighborhood Watch'' to ''The Watch'' to disassociate it from the controversy surrounding Florida teen Trayvon Martin's killing

By Benjamin Svetkey
Updated May 18, 2012 at 04:00 AM EDT
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It’s got an A-list cast (Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, and Jonah Hill) along with a promising-sounding story co-written by Seth Rogen about aliens invading a sleepy suburban town. But then there’s the title. The words Neighborhood Watch haven’t been funny since February, when a real-life neighborhood-watch captain in Florida shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Not a huge surprise, then, that last week Fox Studios officially shortened the title of the July 27 release to just The Watch, after having already made several other adjustments to the comedy’s marketing. ”Our movie is not even remotely overlapping with current events,” producer Shawn Levy told EW last month, when the studio first reacted to the killing by removing posters from Florida theaters. ”Ours is a comedy that pits regular guys against a non-earthly foe.” Fox also pulled the original teaser, which had the guys — Stiller, Hill, Vaughn, and Richard Ayoade (The IT Crowd) — driving in slow motion, gangster rap on the soundtrack; the new trailer focuses more on the aliens. This isn’t the first time a studio has inadvertently stepped into propeller blades of controversy — it’s not even the first time for Fox. Headlines about the slaughter of private-zoo animals in Ohio last October didn’t help the marketing of Cameron Crowe‘s holiday release We Bought a Zoo. Phone Booth, Joel Schumacher‘s 2003 sniper thriller, was postponed by Fox twice, once because of 9/11, and again because of the Washington, D.C., snipers, although in that case it worked out for the best. ”When we made Phone Booth, Colin [Farrell] was unknown,” Schumacher says. “But then he did some movies and became a sex symbol, so when it did open, it worked to our advantage.” Here’s hoping Fox’s sensitivity regarding The Watch will work to theirs. (Additional reporting by Grady Smith)

The Watch

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