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Should producer convert R-rated 'The King's Speech' into family fare?

'The King's Speech' was given an R rating solely for the use of profanity in some key scenes. As the producer reportedly considers re-editing the Oscar-nominated movie, the idea is getting poor reviews.

By Daniel B. WoodStaff writer / January 27, 2011

Colin Firth portrays King George VI in 'The King's Speech.'

Laurie Sparham/The Weinstein Company/AP

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Hollywood, Calif.

“I didn’t think I wanted to see an historical drama about a king who stutters,” says Imogene Bartha, the mother of a 13-year-old boy, as she flips through the Calendar section of the Los Angeles Times in a local coffee shop. “But now here’s this ad telling me it got more Oscar nominations than any other movie, so I’m inclined to check it out.”

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“It” is the highly acclaimed movie “The King’s Speech,” starring Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter, and Geoffrey Rush, all of whom were nominated for acting honors. Mr. Firth plays Queen Elizabeth II’s stuttering father, King George VI, who seeks the assistance of speech therapist Lionel Logue, played by Mr. Rush, on the eve of World War II. The film was nominated for 12 Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

Ms. Bartha’s one dilemma, she says, is presented by her son. Can she see the movie with him? The movie is rated R, which means, says the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), it “may include adult themes, adult activity, hard language, intense or persistent violence, sexually-oriented nudity, drug abuse or other elements, so that parents are counseled to take this rating very seriously.”

IN PICTURES: Oscar Nominees 2011

Now, in an apparent attempt to avoid such dilemmas by potential moviegoers and reach a wider audience, “Speech” producer Harvey Weinstein is reported to be planning to re-edit the film. The movie received an R rating due to two or three short but important scenes in which the king swears repeatedly in an effort to correct his stammer.

“The British numbers are huge because the rating lets families see the movie together,” Weinstein is quoted as saying in the British newspaper The Guardian. Director “Tom [Hooper] and I are trying to find a unique way to do this that keeps his vision of the movie.”

Weinstein, whose “Shakespeare in Love” won Best Picture in 1998, is considered to have top-tier marketing and movie instincts. But several critics say the idea of altering this movie is ill-advised. Some are criticizing the MPAA’s rating system for not being nuanced enough. The MPAA responds that its system is merely a guide for parents, nothing more.

New focus on friendship?

“This is a very bad idea indeed. The movie is perfect the way it is,” says Wheeler Winston Dixon, editor of the Quarterly Review of Film and Video at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. “When you try to recut the best film of 2010, the reason better be for artistic reasons or more enhancement. But this scene is the heart of the movie and is not gratuitous or for shock value. But the simple reason of trying to make more money is unconscionable and is a move that should not be countenanced.”

[Editor's note: The above quote has been corrected.]

The Guardian also reports that Weinstein, to attract wider crowds, plans to refocus attention on the friendship between the king and his therapist, with new advertisements.

The original descriptive line was “It takes leadership to confront a nation’s fear. It takes friendship to conquer your own.” Besides touting the film’s 12 Oscar nominations, new taglines will read, “Some things never go out of style: Friendship; Courage; Loyalty.”

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