OK, hold your breath and try to take in all the AARP action stars of “The Expendables 3,” which opens on Aug. 15. They are, in descending order of age: Harrison Ford (72), Sylvester Stallone (68), Arnold Schwarzenegger (66), Mel Gibson (58), Dolph Lundgren (56), Antonio Banderas (53), Wesley Snipes (51) and Jet Li (51), along with Jason Statham and Terry Crews, a pair of young pups still in their 40s.
Oh, and with apologies to “Sesame Street,” there’s one more member of this over-the-hill gang that falls into the category of “one of these things is not like the others”: Kelsey Grammer (59). (From the episode “Frasier Bulks Up,” perhaps?)
Something else that’s not like the others is that “The Expendables 3” is rated PG-13, whereas the first two films in this decidedly oddball franchise are rated R.
“The Expendables” aggressively earned its R rating with bullet-riddled bodies, buckets of computer-generated blood and constant coarse language. “The Expendables 2” upped the ante in every category.
But now, thanks to the PG-13 rating, all you kids out there who have been anxiously awaiting an “Avengers”-style movie that unites ’80s and ’90s action heroes can see Indiana Jones, Rambo, the Terminator, Mad Max, Universal Soldier, Zorro and Blade fighting side by side.
I’m kidding. No young moviegoers are eager for this film. And probably darn few teens even know who those guys are, unless they’ve seen Schwarzenegger in a History Channel special on California politicians.
So what’s the deal? Why is “The Expendables 3” rated PG-13? And will it actually be any less violent than the first two films?
As it hasn’t been screened yet, no one knows the answer to the second question for sure although my money is on “not by much.” But the answer to the first is obvious: money. It’s always about money.
Although in this case that’s a rather deluded endgame. How much, if at all, is the audience for this movie likely to grow, thanks to the lighter rating?
“The Expendables 3” is more likely to simply join the ever-expanding list of movies that are rated PG-13 but should clearly be rated R.
So far this year all of these certainly qualify: “Ride Along,” “I, Frankenstein,” “Endless Love,” “RoboCop,” “Labor Day,” “Pompeii,” “3 Days to Kill,” “Need for Speed,” “The Single Moms Club,” “Noah,” “Brick Mansions,” “The Other Woman,” “The Quiet Ones,” “Blended” and probably many more.
We could debate some of these choices, of course, but to me, each contains something that feels like it should be out of reach for children. And 13-, 14-, 15- and 16-year-olds are kids with developing and evolving minds and emotions.
So if the PG-13 rating suggests that a film with that rating is fine for anyone who is between 12 and 17, the question becomes, do we really want our kids to watch movie after movie that shows violence as a solution, that displays gore as entertainment, that shows teenagers having casual sex with no consequences, that has kids smoking, drinking, using drugs and swearing as comic punchlines?
It’s interesting to note that of those 2014 films that are rated PG-13, “Endless Love,” “RoboCop” and “Brick Mansions” are remakes of R-rated films.
And “The Expendables 3” isn’t the first PG-13 sequel in an otherwise R-rated franchise, either. “Live Free or Die Hard” qualifies. As do “Terminator Salvation,” “Alien vs. Predator,” “Speed 2: Cruise Control,” “RoboCop 3,” “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome,” “Conan the Destroyer,” etc.
At some point, someone decided to tone down all these films from their R-rated predecessors in order to increase the audience base. In general, it didn’t work.
I’ve been suggesting for years that the PG-13 rating is really just “R-Lite.”
The proof is in the pudding, as they say. Or in this case, the proof is in “The Expendables 3.”