Wednesday, February 23, 2011

When the MPAA spoils the movie: Rated 'Annoying' for overly descriptive ratings explanations.

While The Adjustment Bureau looks like a pretty mediocre movie on its own, there is now yet another reason it may not be worth checking out. Judging from the trailer, much of the film seems to involve Matt Damon dragging Emily Blunt by the hand as they outrun a bunch of black-suited men who basically want to tune their fates. Yes, it's another movie where the girl is apparently incapable of running away from danger by herself, even when she's a professional ballet dancer. But I digress... the film is theoretically a suspense picture, so we're theoretically supposed to be in suspense when Damon and Blunt attempt to escape their nefarious pursuers. But I won't be. Not because I do or don't care whether or not Damon screws over the ambitions and dreams of a girl he barely knows because he thinks she's pretty. No, it's because, thanks to the MPAA, I know that no harm will actually befall them. The Adjustment Bureau is rated PG-13 for "for brief strong language, some sexuality and a violent image". Yes, just one violent image in the whole movie. So cheer up Damon and Blunt, you're probably going to be just fine.

I understand the need that some parents have for explanations of a film's respective rating. After all, an R-rating for The King's Speech (a bunch of F-words) means something quite different than an R-rating for Black Swan (some super-strong sexual content). But there is a big difference between offering a general description of a film's content ('thar be violence and drug use, and sexual content') and offering the kind of detail that spoils the movie before the trailer even starts ('thar be a rape, six killings, a scene where the lead actress disrobes, and a scene where a teenager tries cocaine!'). If you're wondering why you weren't all that frightened by M. Night Shyamalan's The Village back in 2004, maybe it's because you read the rating description, which stated that the film contained 'a scene of violence'. So once your about halfway into the film and a single scene of violence indeed occurs, you knew that there would be no more violence in this particular picture.

A few examples, if I may SPOIL for a moment... When I'm watching The Roommate, I don't necessarily want to know that a cat gets tossed in a clothes dryer. Merely acknowledging 'violence involving animals' should be enough. If I'm watching Three Extremes, I need to know that it contains graphic violence. I don't need to know that it contains 'abortion and torture', especially as said explanation basically gives away the plot to the first and second respective shorts in this Asian horror anthology. And, true story or not, I don't necessarily need to know that Walk the Line contains 'depiction of drug dependency' before the film starts. "Drug use" would have sufficed. Point being, there is a fine like between explaining in general terms why a film got a certain rating (look out... THEMATIC ELEMENTS!) and actively spoiling the film by detailing specific instances and/or noting the lack of certain elements ('this movie only contains a single image of violence... so relax!').

Scott Mendelson


Anonymous said...'re kinda wrong about some stuff with this film. isn't what's at stake in this film


Scott Mendelson said...

Glad to hear it. Was basically going off the trailer.

Tom Clift said...

Yet another reason why everyone seems to hate the MPAA. Thankfully, the OFLC (Office of Film and Literature Classification, in Australia) are far vaguer in their ratings descriptions.


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