Do you like your movies to have lots of sexual humor and flatulence gags, violent fighting and gunplay, or in some cases, nudity? Do your children? Well, Hollywood must think you both do, if the recent slate of PG and PG-13-rated films is any indication.
This won't come as news to anyone who's been to a movie theater recently and has had to sit through any such films, most of which have been horrible - "Mr. Magoo," "Spice World" and "Home Alone 3" quickly come to mind.But it can't be stated often enough that the motion picture industry is seriously out of step with the American public.
One of the worst recent offenders has to be "Krippendorf's Tribe," a comedy that revolves around the comic misadventures of an anthropologist and single parent (Richard Dreyfuss) and his children. The film contains quite a few astonishingly vulgar gags and jokes, all of them fairly explicit and which could easily justify the PG-13 rating (if not an even more severe rating).
What's heartening is the fact that families seem to be rejecting most of this inappropriate fare (though, admittedly, the disappointing "Flubber" and "Mouse Hunt" have both made more than $60 million in the United States alone).
Unfortunately, studio executives are already putting a unique spin on this and have been citing the failure of these movies to justify making fewer and fewer non-R-rated films.
The trend actually started years ago, with production of family-oriented films decreasing exponentially each year. Consider, if you will, that out of the 40-plus movies currently in Salt Lake theaters, nearly half of them are R-rated. Thirteen of them are PG-13s and only seven are PGs. And of the bunch, there's only one G-rated movie ("Anastasia," which opened in theaters last year).
Still, there's some small hope. The 20th Century Fox studio recently created Fox Family Films, a studio-within-a-studio that also includes Fox Animated Features (the folks responsible for "Anastasia"). And other studios are leaping into the fray (including Warner Bros., a former giant among animated shorts). Still, only Walt Disney Pictures seems to be able to make much of a living off the family-film niche. There's also the burgeoning direct-to-video market, which Disney is using to make a killing.
But "family" videos continue to be dominated by the "Ernest" movie series and things like the no-more-need-be-said "Slappy and the Stinkers" - and that's not much of an option for families, either.
- MORE HARDSHIPS FOR THE LITTLE GUYS: The dearth of quality family films hasn't gone unnoticed by the owners of some of the valley's movie houses, either.
Many discount and so-called "dollar houses" in Utah try to book only G, PG and PG-13 related fare, but this past Christmas season saw them scrambling to find appropriate films - and failing.
One of them, the Kaysville Theater, even briefly closed down while waiting for enough non-R-rated material to fill its screens.
Even more distressing is the fact that this week, the Sandcastle Theater in Bountiful closed its doors for good, with the owners saying that they simply couldn't find wholesome films that audiences want to see.
And attempts by the Murray Theater and the SCERA Showhouse in Orem to screen movies made by Feature Films for Families haven't been as successful as the theater owners might have hoped.
This isn't exactly encouraging, folks.
- FAMILY UNFRIENDLY CARTOONS: One thing parents definitely won't want to take the kids to is the Tower Theatre's monthlong festival of episodes from the cable TV animated series "South Park."
The Tower and local radio station KXRK-FM got the go-ahead from series creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone to screen some during the month of March - although they also got word from the Comedy Channel, which actually owns the episodes, that they can't charge admission for them.
Despite the fact that "South Park" episodes are cartoons, the ultra-tasteless series' crude animation style is surpassed only by its crude humor - which is even more lowbrow than that of "Beavis and Butthead."
Still, the show has already built a cult following, and a one-time screening of episodes filled up quickly. In fact, the Tower had to turn people away.
Apparently there is an audience for this type of thing, though it definitely should not include kids.
- QUOTE THE WEEK: "The one thing Jeff would ask before every scene is `Had the Dude taken a joint before this scene?' If we said `Yeah,' he'd go over in the corner and rub his eyes to make them red and bloodshot. That's acting." - Director Joel Coen, talking about "The Big Lebowski" star Jeff Bridges
- QUOTE OF THE WEEK RUNNER-UP: "I had to act badly in these scenes - that was hard to do because you're trained to do things right. You never want a bad performance to go on film because it will be there forever. Someday someone may pull out (these scenes) and use them as an example of how bad I was in movies." - Jason Priestley, describing his role as a B-movie actor in the film "Love and Death on Long Island"