The image of a bullet-riddled Neighborhood Watch sign — on which the caped figure of Boris the Burglar, a familiar trademark of the National Sheriffs’ Association, has almost imperceptibly turned into a lurking alien — has been pulled back where possible. On the film’s Facebook page, meanwhile, Fox is now featuring photographs of the four stars in a frontal shot that seems deliberately calculated to invoke the harmless lead characters in “Ghostbusters,” to which Fox marketers have been likening their film.The next step, according to the person briefed on studio plans, will be to highlight the movie’s space aliens — a reveal that might have occurred late, if at all, in a normal marketing campaign.
Neighborhood Watch, the summer movie starring Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill and Richard Ayoade as a group of neighborhood watch volunteers who end up stopping an alien invasion, looks like an absurd, harmless comedy. But with the recent shooting of Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Florida giving the entire idea of neighborhood watches some pretty heavy baggage, the marketers at 20th Century Fox are scrambling to figure out how to distance the movie from the real-life tragedy.The movie doesn’t open until late July, so unless the story is still on front pages by then, they shouldn’t have to go so far as to change the name or anything like that. Unless it’s revealed that Zimmerman is a space alien. In which case, they’re probably screwed.