R for bad acting and talking rodents…

Movie ratings – don’t ya just love ’em?

In recent years I’ve been gratified to see that the motion picture industry has slowly but steadily begun to refine the movie rating process. Today they’re not simply telling you what a movie is rated (i.e.: G, PG, PG-13, R, NC-17, X or WHOA!) but the reasons why a film has been given a specific rating.

Only last week I was cruising aimlessly through the aisles of a colorful Vacaville video emporium looking for some light viewing when I came across copies of those two intellectual thrillers “Heist” and “Thirteen Ghosts.” Both were rated R, but even better, both of the 2001 releases also had detailed explanations of the ratings applied to them.

For example, “Heist” was rated R for “language and some violence.”

“Thirteen Ghosts,” on the other hand, earned its R rating for “Horror, violence, gore, nudity and language.”

Well, I’m sure you can guess which movie I picked (and, by the way, “Thirteen Ghosts” was awesome…).

The entertainment industry should be commended for taking the extra step in explaining the ratings for each movie, but I fear they still haven’t gone far enough in their criteria for applying ratings in the first place.

Sure, foul language and wholesale nudity will usually draw an R rating, but what about other factors that may make a movie even more objectionable to sapient viewers?

For example “Rated R for violence, horror and repeated attempts at acting by Pauly Shore” or “Rated PG-13 for endless car chases through Escondido involving a cute, talking rodent.”

And, yes, any movie with both Pauly Shore and a cute, talking rodent should get an immediate NC-17 rating. If either of those characters is singing any old REO Speedwagon tunes, that would understandably move our controversial celluloid right up to an X rating. Nobody with less than 21 years of life experience should be expected to deal with all three of these elements at once.


Admittedly, it’s sometimes difficult to draw the fine line between what constitutes, say, a PG-13 movie and an R-rated film.

If, for example, the movie portrays L.A. cops as violent, foul-mouthed thugs, we’re probably talking a solid PG-13 (unless they’re, like, naked, violent foul-mouthed L.A. cops). If, however, the movie portrays L.A. cops as cute, talking rodents, it’s time to lower the boom and give the film a solid R rating.

There’s no telling what a production like that could do to impressionable young minds. Somehow, though, I get the feeling that it could scar a whole generation of rosy-cheeked moviegoers considerably worse than Cheech and Chong’s “Up In Smoke” or the popular Troma Team beach drama “Surf Nazis Must Die.”

Standard letter and/or age ratings may be a simple guide to the content of some movies, but perhaps it would be better to start right out with a brief description of the film’s most objectionable characteristics and then let consumers determine their own rating.

This technique is perhaps best exemplified by the unrated cult classic “Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers,” the video jacket of which states simply “Caution: May Be Too Intense for Anyone.”


Now that pretty well covers all the bases, amigos…

Originally published June 30, 2002