Saturday, December 5, 2009

Can a PG-13 Film be Family-Friendly?

There have been a great many attempts to write and produce a good faith-friendly movie. The mainstream studios have often missed the mark by adding gratuitous language, which otherwise ruins a warm inspirational story that families would love to see.

Such an opportunity was lost by Miramax in the making of EVERYBODY'S FINE, a PG-13 movie starring De Niro as a widower trying to stay connected with his estranged children who have moved far from home. Unfortunately, someone (a writer, producer, director, or perhaps De Niro himself) decided to insert two blasts of profanity that smacked the unsuspecting audience like an icy snowball on a summer day.

Which begs the question; Can a PG-13 movie be "family friendly?"

As though it was created just to prove my point, Warner Bros. released a PG-13 movie, THE BLIND SIDE, starring Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw. Based on a true story, this film portrayed drug use, racism, fighting, and other inappropriate behavior, but none of it was exploitive or explicit. Except for a smattering of expletives, there were no profanities or obscenities. In fact, this movie was a very principled story with plenty of grit and humor presented in a manner that is poignant while not being offensive. Dove was proud to endorse this film for audiences over age 12.

THE BLIND SIDE is, in my opinion, the best mainstream family movie of far.

Discerning families enjoy the same types of entertainment as anyone else. There’s nothing like a good comedy, drama, action/adventure or even thriller. It’s just that most of us don’t want to be assaulted by globs of blood, gore, cursing, on-screen sex, naked bodies and other unnecessary abhorrent junk. 

Some lazy filmmakers will argue that sex or violence or obscene language is necessary to properly characterize the bad guys, or the struggles their heroes must endure to punctuate their overcoming of adversities.  In the words of Ebenezer Scrooge, “Bah, Humbug!” That argument is a red herring. To support that case, one would have to discount every movie made prior to 1968 when there were standards of decency in place for mainstream films.  So now what? “The Maltese Falcon” disappears from the scene. Throw a rock through “Rear Window?” Send “The African Queen” up the river? Declare “Citizen Kane” an illegal alien? Bomb “Casablanca?”    I could go on.

According to the American Film Institute, 61 of the top 100 films of all time were produced prior to 1968, the year the first R-rated movie was released. Hmmm, makes you think doesn’t it?