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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.

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“This seems like an odd tactic to me,” says Robert Elder, film columnist and author of “The Film That Changed My Life.” “It’s not like it hasn’t found its audience. I don’t know any 14-year-olds who are clamoring for an historical drama about a king with a stammer. When I go to an R-rated movie, I personally look forward to an audience not filled with teenagers.”

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Dixon, Elder, and others point to the fact that many filmmakers manipulate their films prior to release to get a different rating or to deal with criticism. Responding to charges of anti-Semitism, Mel Gibson famously decided to not translate a particular line in 2004’s “The Passion of the Christ.” Todd Solonz’s 2001 “Storytelling” put red boxes over explicit sex scenes.

'Archaic rating system'

“I guess they could just bleep out the profanity like they do on cable TV for instance, and it wouldn't be too terrible,” says Picktainment.com’s Phil Wallace. “Maybe they can do that in some theaters, but not in others.”

But “the real issue is the MPAA and its archaic rating system,” he says. The profanity is “somewhat essential to the story as it’s an honest depiction of individuals with stuttering problems. The swearing is used in the least offensive way of any movie I've seen and hardly deserving of an R-rating. Yet the MPAA continues to give PG-13 ratings to raunchy teen sex comedies which are far more offensive.”

The MPAA is going out of its way to remind moviegoers that the entire purpose of the rating system is to inform parents about content.

“This is not for critics or filmmakers or marketers,” says Elizabeth Kaltman, Los Angeles spokeswoman for the MPAA. “The criticism we hear about this system is generated by clever marketing executives who are trying to get buzz for their movies. It’s important to note that we rarely, if ever, get told by parents that our rating has been too restrictive and the movie should be more accessible to children. The R rating doesn’t ever mean that parents can’t take children to see a movie. All it says is ‘you parents should educated about this before you take children to the theater.’ ”

No one at the MPAA, says Ms. Kaltman, can ever remember a time when a filmmaker has tried to resubmit a film for a different rating after it has already been released. But occasionally, she says, that happens when a film is about to be sold on DVD.

Movie benefits from Oscar buzz

Oscar buzz has already improved the fortunes of “The King’s Speech," says Harry Medved, spokesman for movie ticketing service Fandango.

“For several weeks in a row, ‘The King's Speech’ has been slowly but surely appearing among our top five ticket-sellers,” Mr. Medved says. “But on Tuesday it moved up to the top spot as Fandango's top ticket-seller of the day. You wouldn't expect any film with the words ‘King’ or ‘Speech’ in the title to be a true crowd-pleaser, but this little movie continues to pack select theaters across the country, and shows no signs of slowing down.”

Medved notes that according to historical accounts, the king really used the profanity as part of his therapy, and that in the movie “it makes for an amusing sequence.”

“Most informed and discriminating parents will know there’s just a tiny spot of profanity in the movie,” he says, “and they’ll take their older kids to see it regardless of the rating.”

The Weinstein Co. did not respond to several attempts for comment.

IN PICTURES: Oscar Nominees 2011

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