Once upon a time, long, long ago, Hollywood seemed to know how to make movies for adults and movies for children - and sometimes movies that appealed to both adults and children.
But today, movies are more often not suitable for either.Witness "King Ralph," the John Goodman comedy that opened Friday. Much of the humor is too childish for adults, and there are several moments that are too vulgar for children - including a raunchy sequence in a strip joint.
"Kindergarten Cop," as has been well-documented, is a movie that contains grotesque violence alternating with a sweet and funny plot about Arnold Schwarzenegger bonding with 5-year-olds.
In addition to "Kindergarten Cop," other Christmas films included "Look Who's Talking Too," which, like its predecessor, contained an awful lot of vulgarity and sexual content considering how much of the humor seemed aimed at children, and "Three Men and a Little Lady," which had sexual and vulgar dialogue that seemed inappropriate for young audiences, though much of the film was too silly for older moviegoers.
"Edward Scissorhands" had a moment of violence at the end that seemed out of sync with the rest of the film and was quite grotesque. Even "Home Alone" had some questionable situations played out early in the film.
And going back awhile, there was "Parenthood," which, like "Kindergarten Cop," had TV ads that seemed to be aimed directly at children, despite a preponderance of sexual content in the film itself that was definitely not for young ones.
At one time the Walt Disney label seemed to be a safe haven for movies parents could send their children to. If it said "Disney," the film would not expose children to anything parents might consider offensive.
But the modern Disney film "White Fang," which is specifically intended as a "family" film, contains profanity and one moment when a dead body pops out of a makeshift coffin and skids across an ice-covered lake, which might not be something you want your kids to see. Another Disney film, the Touchstone chase-thriller "Run," is one more example of a film being too mindless for adults but too violent and profane for kids.
At least "Run" is rated R. All the other films named above are rated PG-13, except "King Ralph," which is PG.
And, let's face it - PG today is what G was a decade ago.
The question I have to ask here is why is there any profanity in "White Fang"? Why is there nudity and vulgarity in "King Ralph"? Why all the violence in "Kindergarten Cop"?
On the surface it would appear that Hollywood filmmakers simply throw these excesses into movies that don't require them because they want to appeal to a broader audience. But by including such material, instead of appealing to everyone they wind up appealing to no one.
If the moviegoers I hear from are any indication, even the box-office successes that include such material more often than not have sent audience members out of the theater feeling they enjoyed the film in spite of those elements, not because of them.
But I think it's more than just the syndrome of cynical movies-by-committee. I think it's because these filmmakers have lost touch with, for lack of a better term, Middle America.
Many of the people in Hollywood once lived outside Los Angeles or Manhattan and co-existed with ordinary people on a day-to-day basis. But once they became successful, most of them radically changed their lifestyles to include chic dining spots, expensive parties, mingling with "beautiful people" and, often, drugs. So they find it hard to remember what life was like before.
As a result, we get an awful lot of movies about high-rollers, wheeler-dealers, wealth and power, artists, filmmakers, writers, etc. Movies about common people that the average moviegoer can identify with are becoming more and more scarce.
And it seems a logical extension that these moviemakers have also forgotten about what it means to retain some semblance of innocence during childhood. The result is that filmmakers throw in sex, nudity, violence and especially profanity even in the most childish film fare.
Modern Hollywood movers and shakers have lost touch with what it means to be a child - and especially with what "Middle America" parents may not want their children exposed to.
If you question them on it, many will become defensive and say they include such material simply because children are exposed to it every day in one form or another - even in elementary schoolyards.
But if you talk to teachers - or even the children themselves - they will tell you that when it is brought to the schoolyard it has often come from a movie.
- REMEMBER, IF YOU have a complaint about moviegoing - and especially if you have a solution to the problem of people who talk during the movie - write Chris Hicks, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, UT 84110.