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G-rated films for older audiences have all but vanished

Published: Thursday, May 8 2014 3:10 p.m. MDT

The only other G-rated movies that might be designed for adult audiences — and there’s a lot of room for debate here — are the Disney comedy “College Road Trip” (2008); the third in Disney’s “Santa Clause” trilogy, “The Escape Clause” (2006); and the British import “Mr. Bean’s Holiday” (2007), all three of them very juvenile comedies.

So where are the G-rated movies with adult themes? For that matter, where are the PG-rated movies for adults?

Looking over the past decade of PG-rated films that are neither animated nor documentaries, those that are aimed at adults are, again, mostly faith films (to include such LDS-centric titles as “Inspired Guns” and “Ephraim’s Rescue,” and such Christmas-themed titles as “Black Nativity” and “A Miracle in Spanish Harlem”).

There are sometimes PG-rated films aimed at “families,” as opposed to strictly youngsters, but rarely are adults the primary target. An exception is 2011, a boom year, of sorts, when there were no less than three PG films for an older crowd: “Meek’s Cutoff” (2011), “The Big Year” (2011) and “We Bought a Zoo” And leaving out some coarse language might easily have earned each of them a G.

So the obvious question is, does every movie have to have some kind of potentially offensive content? Apparently so. Otherwise it’s not considered “adult.” (Although one could argue that a lot of the material that earns a PG or PG-13 is rather childish.)

Why has it changed so dramatically over the past 45 years as to what content moves a film out of the G column?

Anyone who has seen the original “Planet of the Apes” knows it contains profanity, nudity and a fair amount of violence. In fact, four of the five “Planet of the Apes” films in the first cycle, from 1968-73, were rated G. (Only the fourth in the series, “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes,” carried a PG.)

There were still G-rated adult films being made throughout the 1970s, from the World War II epic “Tora! Tora! Tora!” (1970) to Barbra Streisand’s screwball farce “What’s Up, Doc?” (1972) to the Inspector Clouseau sequel “Return of the Pink Panther” (1975) to “The Black Stallion” (1979) — and even the first big-screen “Star Trek” movie (1979).

Mind you, these are not pictures that suffered at the box office. In fact, all were enormously successful, many landing in the top 10 for their respective years. The G rating didn’t hold any of them back.

None of which is to suggest that filmmakers today shouldn’t have the freedom to make the movies they want or that CARA members should be giving out G ratings willy-nilly.

But it seems pretty obvious that the board is skittish about awarding G ratings and that moviemakers are equally skittish about creating clean movies for fear they will be ignored in theaters.

Really, though, if the upcoming “Star Wars” sequels or the next Marvel superhero movie or anything by Steven Spielberg were to carry G ratings, would the audience really stay away because of the rating?

Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." Website: www.hicksflicks.com

Email: hicks@deseretnews.com

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