The Watch (previously known as Neighborhood Watch) is a 2012 science fiction comedy film directed by Akiva Schaffer and written by Jared Stern, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. It stars Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, and Richard Ayoade. The film follows Evan (Stiller), Bob (Vaughn), Franklin (Hill), and Jamarcus (Ayoade), a group of neighbors who form a suburban neighborhood watch group and use it as a front to get away from their families. However, when they accidentally uncover an alien plot that threatens the world, they are forced into action.
The film began development in 2008 under producer Shawn Levy as a teen-audience targeted project written by Jared Stern. Between 2009 and late 2010, the project saw different directors and stars join the project, until November 2010, when it moved in a new direction under Rogen and Goldberg who rewrote the script aiming towards an adult-oriented audience. Filming began in October 2011, in the state of Georgia and concluded in January 2012.
The film's marketing campaign was affected by the 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watch member. As a result the campaign was refocused on the alien premise instead of the film leads, and the film name was changed from Neighborhood Watch.
A group of suburbanites (Stiller, Vaughn, Hill, and Ayoade) form a neighborhood watch group to allow them time to escape from their families and boring lives. However, when the group discovers an alien plot that threatens the entire world, they are forced to confront it head on.
A Costco manager and new suburban resident who forms a neighborhood watch after his friend is murdered. He repeatedly forms new groups because he has no friends.
A resident who uses the watch to spy on his teenage daughter's dating life. Vaughn entered negotiations to star in June 2011.The characters relationship with his daughter is what convinced Vaughn to take the role.
A resident with emotional problems who joins the watch after being rejected by the local police.Hill's involvement was confirmed in August 2011.His prior commitment to The Watch forced him to decline a role in Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained, which he considered would have been "the perfect next step" following his 2011 Academy Award nomination.However, he later managed to secure a role in the film.Hill spent two weeks training to use a switchblade for his character.
A recently divorced resident. Chris Tucker was considered for the role before Ayoade was signed.
Evan's wife who forces him to move to the suburbs.
The cast also includes Erin Moriarty as Chelsea, Bob's daughter;Nicholas Braun as Jason, Chelsea's boyfriend;Will Forte as Sergeant Bressman; and Doug Jones as the main alien villain.Billy Crudup appears uncredited as a "creepy neighbor".Director Akiva Schaffer and his collaborators in the comedy troupe The Lonely Island, Andy Samberg and Jorma Taccone, make cameo appearances in the film.
The film entered development as Neighborhood Watch in early 2008, with Levy developing the project over three years based on an idea by 20th Century Fox executive John Fox. Levy described his original vision as a "PG-13 kind of Ghostbusters-y thing."The original screenplay was written by Jared Stern.In May 2009, David Dobkin and Will Ferrell were in talks to direct and star respectively, with Dobkin's involvement progressing as far as him submitting revisions to Stern's script. However, by August the same year, both Dobkin and Ferrell had left the project.
In December 2009, Peter Segal was in negotiations to direct the film,but by November 2010 the project had no director attached. In the same month, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg were brought onto the project to perform a complete re-write of the script, aiming for an adult-orientated, R-rated film.By June 2011, Saturday Night Live alumni Akiva Schaffer was given the option to direct,in what is his second feature film following the 2007 comedy Hot Rod.On May 4, 2012, two months before the film's release, it was renamed to The Watch.
Principal photography began in October 2011 in Georgia, with filming occurring in Atlanta, including Inman Park,and several areas in Cobb County including the Oakleigh,Echo Mill, and Amberton subdivisions in the city of Powder Springs.Filming also took place at the Marietta Square in the city of Marietta, where businesses were renamed and an alleyway behind Hemingway's Bar & Grill was treated to artificially age the buildings.One of the Marietta scenes filmed involved a young boy on a skateboard being abducted by aliens.Scenes were also lensed in the Brookhaven community.On October 25, 2011, a casting call was made for extras to fill the football stadium during two nights of filming between November 2-3 at Campbell High School in Smyrna, Georgia.On November 23, 2011, a minor, walk-on role in the film was auctioned off to benefit the Stiller Foundation charity; the auctioned closed at $23,000 to an undisclosed bidder.
In late November, 2011, the site of a former BJ's Wholesale Club in Norcross, Georgia was converted in appearance to that of a Costco for shooting.On January 23, 2012, Hill announced that filming had officially concluded.Multiple scene takes were made, allowing the cast to follow the script as written and then also inject their own improvisations.Special effects company Legacy Effects provided creature designs and effects for the aliens.
The Neighborhood Watch marketing campaign began on February 29, 2012, with the release of a teaser poster, trailer and the unveiling of the film's website, jointhewatch.com.On March 27, 2012, it was reported that 20th Century Fox had the poster and trailer removed from Florida theaters in response to the increasing controversy concerning the February shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida by neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman. The trailer featured Hill, imitating a gun with his hand to pretend to shoot at teenagers, while the poster featured a bullet-ridden, alien-themed neighborhood watch sign. According to insiders, Fox intended to move into the next phase of the marketing campaign as soon as possible, focusing on the film's science-fiction aspect, while replacing the previous posters with images of the cast.Fox maintained that the July 27, 2012, release date would remain unchanged by the Martin case or the marketing changes.
In a statement about the changes, Fox said: "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… these initial marketing materials were released before this incident ever came to light. The teaser materials were part of an early phase of our marketing and were never planned for long-term use."The new alien-focused campaign began on May 4, 2012, with the release of a new trailer, coinciding with Fox changing the film's name to The Watch, to further distance the film from the Martin case.
The premiere of The Watch took place on July 23, 2012, at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.It was released in North America on July 27, 2012. On July 25, 2012, Harkins Theatres, the sixth-largest North American cinema chain, announced it would not be showing the film after failing to reach a financial agreement with Fox.
In the week before release, pre-release tracking showed that up to 25% of North American audiences were reluctant to visit cinemas following the mass murder in a Colorado cinema the previous week. This, plus competition from the simultaneous launch of the 2012 Summer Olympics would negatively impact ticket sales for The Watch. Tracking showed the film could take $13-15 million during its opening weekend.
The film took an estimated $4.5 million during its opening Friday from 3,168 theaters.
As of July 26, 2012, The Watch has received generally negative reviews. It has garnered an 14% approval rating from 84 critics – an average rating of 4.2 out of 10 – on the review-aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes, whose consensus reads: "The Watch uneasily mixes sci-fi elements with gross-out gags and strands its talented cast with a script that favors vulgarity over wit at nearly every turn."Metacritic provides a score of 36 out of 100 from 30 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable" reviews.CinemaScore polls reported that the average grade moviegoers gave the film was a "C+" on an A+ to F scale.