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Movie Answer Man (07/16/2000)

Q. I would like to know why your review of the movie "Scary Movie" didn't warn parents that there was going to be so much sexuality in the movie. I went to see this movie based on your review. Not once did you mention the fact that it was not appropriate for children. This movie should have been rated NC-17. (Collette Taylor, Chicago IL)

A. And might have been, if the NC-17 rating were workable, which it is not, as I have been tirelessly informing the MPAA for years. My review did carry the following warning in the credits information: "Classified R (for strong, crude sexual humor, language, drug use and violence)."

Q. Last night I saw "Scary Movie." As a fan of gross-out comedy, I thought the movie to be above par. However, as I sat in the theater I couldn't help but notice how many children were in the theater. Not teenagers, but children 12 and under. This is how little the R rating really means. Because this movie looked like a funny horror movie, these parents had completely ignored the R, thinking it would be on the same level as "Scream's" R. It clearly wasn't and as an avid moviegoer, I was truly embarrassed for the 6 year old girl in front of me who, judging by her reaction, had never seen a male up close and personal. How do we protect against this? (Jennifer Cordero, Memphis TN)

A. By establishing a workable "A" rating for films that are not pornographic but are intended for adults and not suitable for children. The MPAA and its masters, the theater owners, oppose this rating because it might cost them ticket sales.

Q. Just saw "The Patriot" with a packed house. There were young children in the audience. I find that unbelievably annoying, and I wonder what in hell the parents are thinking? I guess they're not. (Jeff Joseph, Lancaster, CA)

A. The movie, rated R, had an extended scene in which Mel Gibson's young sons ambush and kill British soldiers and one of them shouts, "I'm glad I killed them!" Of course the R rating is hardly observed by theaters with a movie like this, and is useful only so the MPAA can say they told us so after stunned parents stagger out with shellshocked kids.

Q. My wife and I recently saw "The Perfect Storm." While we both enjoyed the movie, my wife wondered how the writers of the movie (and the author of book) knew what happened to the crew of the boat. I mean, how did they know that the ice machine broke (among other things)? I know this is not a documentary, but I couldn't help wondering. (Doug Crooks, San Diego CA)

A. Beyond a certain point, they didn't know, and used conjecture, hypothesis, logic, and the experience of other fishing crews.

Q. You were wondering about the wording of "Disney's The Kid." I've read that Chaplin's estate, which is extremely protective of all its rights, took issue and would not allow "The Kid" as a title. (Ray Pride, Chicago)

A. Quite reasonably, since it is a Chaplin classic. But adding "Disney" seems a little awkward, and suggests it's a kiddie film, when in fact it's quite a nice little general audience comedy. Thinking of titles, I came up with, "Wish I Were a Kid Again," "Growing Down," "40 and 8" and "The Very Big Birthday." On second thought, maybe "Disney's The Kid" is okay.

Q. I just saw "Eyes Wide Shut" on video. Kubrick is my favorite filmmaker but I won't bore you with my enthusiastic adoration of this masterpiece. What puzzled me was an exterior dolly shot in which the main character is walking down the street, and he passes a jewelry shop. And on the awning of this shop is the name of the jeweler--and their phone number with the "555" prefix that always spoils my suspension of disbelief. Since the phone number has no significance to the story whatsoever. I find it incredible that someone would go to the effort of building a fake awning and putting a phone number on it that screams out, "This is just a movie!" (Steven Dahlman, Minneapolis, MN)

A. Like many moviegoers, you know that there is no "555" prefix and so movies employ it to avoid using a real number. Kubrick was known for his sly sense of humor, and my best guess is that he did it simply to amuse himself.

Q. The postscript to your review of "Scary Movie" discusses scary-movie titles and states, "Still available: "I Still Know What You Did the Summer Before Last." Close but no cigar. USA Today reports that Lions Gate Films is planning a Scary-type -type spoof, tentatively titled "I Know What You Screamed Last Summer." If this trend keeps up, I see dead box-office. (Steven Bailey, Jacksonville Beach, FL.)

A. Now that "Scary Movie" has opened to $43 in its first week, would you like to revise your trend spotting?

Q. I read on Harry Knowles' web site that Paramount is planning a re-release of "Wonder Boys" in October. I have seen studios re-release films after they get nominated for academy awards("The Insider," "L.A. Confidential") but I have never seen a film get re-released in the same year. I am assuming that the studio thinks it may have an Oscar contender on its shelf and that the marketing of the film got screwed up. Most people I have talked to didn't even know about the film at all. Have you ever seen anything like this before, and how do you think Wonder Boys will do the second time around? (Richard Duke, Jonesboro AR)

A. I think "Wonder Boys" was one of the best films of the year, with probably Michael Douglas' best performance, as an English professor and writer on the skids. The film did less than $19 million in its February release, despite great reviews. In today's box office climate, movies are forced to do or die in their first weekends, and a movie like "Wonder Boys," which appeals to moviegoers with more experience of life, is not allowed to gradually build an audience. Paramount does indeed intuit it has an Oscar contender, and the re-release is a gamble that the film has earned.

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

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