Chuck Wing, Deseret Morning News
Alex Niver, left, and Ben Gourley perform during filming in 2003 for "Saints and Soldiers," an LDS-oriented World War II drama that originally received an R rating.

The war over the R rating for "Saints and Soldiers" is over, and PG-13 has won.

The locally produced LDS-oriented World War II drama, which received a surprising R rating in February, has now officially been re-rated PG-13 after going through an appeal process.

The removal of just "a few seconds and frames" of footage was apparently all it took, according to Jeff Simpson, president of the film's distributor, Excel Entertainment. After the edits were made, the PG-13 was awarded by the Motion Picture Association of America's rating board for "war violence and related images."

The process was a challenge, Simpson said, because the MPAA's rating board — the Classification and Rating Administration — does not specifically explain why a movie receives a certain rating. And that includes resubmissions to the appeals board.

"It's been a pain, to be honest," said Simpson. "And it's taken a lot of time. But we didn't want to soften the picture. There are parts that will and probably should upset people. War is an ugly, nasty thing. We haven't gone overboard in showing that, but we wanted to make sure the film is still honest about it."

As a result of the lengthy appeal process, the film's mid-April opening date has been pushed back, likely to summer, Simpson said. "We believe we've got a really strong movie, and we want to get it out to audiences as soon as possible. But at the same time we don't want it to get lost in the shuffle of summer, with all the big blockbusters."

The initial news of the R rating came as a big shock, Simpson said. "Saints and Soldiers," which follows several GIs during the Battle of the Bulge — including an LDS central character — received the rating for the same material described in the current PG-13: "war violence and related images."

"We weren't expecting it to get a G," Simpson said. "I mean, this is a war movie, dealing with violent, terrible things happening to people. Is it so graphic that it deserves an R? We certainly didn't think so."

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The filmmakers feared an R might sound a death knell for the drama, which was directed by Ryan Little ("Out of Step") and which stars prominent LDS actors Corbin Allred and Kirby Heyborne.

Simpson said Excel did give some thought to releasing the film with the R, but ultimately "we wanted as many people to be able to see our movie as possible. And in this area, that meant some changes had to be made."

"Saints and Soldiers" has already been screened at more than a dozen different film festivals across the country, taking home audience awards from several of them — including the family-friendly Heartland Film Festival in Indiana.

"People are responding very well to the movie," Simpson said. "That's a very positive sign that we've got something special here,"