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Is the PG-13 Cut of “The King’s Speech” Really a Big Deal?

Is the PG-13 Cut of "The King's Speech" Really a Big Deal?

Next week (April 1st) The Weinstein Company releases its censored PG-13 version of Best Picture Oscar winner “The King’s Speech.” And a lot of people are furious about the idea. It’s been talked about for a while, but now the re-cut, which reportedly substitutes the more tolerable word “shit” in for the completely evil “fuck” about 42 times, has a release date and will be the only available version of the biopic in U.S. theaters starting one week from today. Despite the fact that it’s TWC’s highest-grossing (domestic) title yet, Harvey and co. want to get additional cash from the more puritanical American audience who wouldn’t see the film in its R-rated form. Is this really a terrible thing?

Rating stamp alone, it isn’t. I’m actually surprised it received an R in the first place, even with the F-bombs. Shouldn’t historical dialogue get a pass regardless of whether or not it includes swears? Anyway, it’s technically not the first Best Picture winner to get a rating downgrade, though “Midnight Cowboy” didn’t need to be changed in order to go from X to R. The issue people have is that it’s been toned down, literally censored, for greater appeal, something Damon Houx at ScreenCrave points out was done decades ago with “Saturday Night Fever.”

So how is this different from every other popular R-rated movie aired on commercial television? “Goodfellas” is on TV all the time, censored, and I don’t hear much complaints there (especially from my soon-to-be wife, who loves the film so much she’ll watch it anytime it’s on, regardless of it being the more family friendly edit). I know, there are criticisms, often in the form of showcasing how ridiculous TV edits of films like “The Big Lebowskis” are. But who among us has never sat through a censored version of a film on one of the networks?

Maybe this case is a bit worse because TWC is charging money for this chastened cut, where usually censored edits are offered on the “free” channels (basic cable networks included). And it’s disappointing that moviegoers aren’t being given a choice, like they’re given with 3-D or 2-D versions of films. Hopefully theaters are notifying patrons of the change, and thankfully the DVD of “The King’s Speech” will have the original version — the swearing is actually integral to the story, so to lose it completely does weaken the film in other ways. Otherwise, I have no problem with the cut if people choose to pay for that, no more than I have a problem with people paying for extended cuts (in cinemas or home video). I recommend you see the intended R-rated version, but that’s all I can do.

Here are some Film Blog Water Cooler quotes from people who aren’t so relaxed on the issue:

Alex Billington at FirstShowing.net:

I don’t think this sad, mutilated version of what was once a great Oscar winning film deserves to be seen – by anyone. It doesn’t deserve the attention or effort I’m even giving it, which is ironic because a mere three months ago, I was rooting for The King’s Speech to win Best Picture (and it did anyway). […] I would start a campaign to boycott this release, but I realized that would be wasting too much time on something that doesn’t deserve the attention anyway. I don’t know whether my complaints with this should be aimed towards the MPAA for slapping it with an R-rating to begin with, or towards The Weinstein Company for making such a careless decision to alter an otherwise fantastic, Best Picture winning film.

Linda Sharps at CafeMom’s The Stir, under the ironic headline: “New ‘King’s Speech’ Version Makes Me $*&@! Mad”:

Personally, I think the re-release is ridiculous. The dialogue is a pivotal moment for Firth’s character, it’s not like he’s just running through the movie shouting “fuck!” willy-nilly. As a parent, I wouldn’t have a single problem with my children watching that scene.

Sean Dwyer at Film Junk:

It’s somewhat ironic that the release date for the new PG-13 cut will be April 1st. Hopefully this is their way of telling us that the entire thing is just one big hoax. Harvey Weinstein claims that he also wanted the PG-13 cut for the DVD release so that the movie could be safely shown in schools. It all seems pretty ridiculous though… after all, is there really that much of a difference between the two words?

Monika Bartyzel at Cinematical:

Oh, the irony…

We’ve got a company who was, only a few months ago, battling the MPAA and standing up against its wildly ridiculous decisions. We’ve got a film where the method King George VI used to overcome his physically imposed silence — the way he broke out of vocal shackles — has been silenced. And, we’ve got a press release insinuating that there are legions of kids waiting to see this movie, since any family eager to see it could have gone before, with parental supervision.

And, as filmmaker Edgar Wright tweeted earlier: “The new f**k-free version of ‘The King’s Speech’ is a PG-13 in the US, while the f**k-filled version is rated 12 in the UK. That’s f**ked up.”

Monika’s post also has a poll asking if parents will be taking their kids to the new version now that it’s safe. Only 19% say they favor the censored cut, while 58% say their kids will be permitted to see the real version on DVD.

Matt Singer at IFC News:

I have maintained all along that a)”The King’s Speech” didn’t deserve an R rating in the first place and b)no teenager, even those troubled by stuttering and bullying, was kept from seeing the film because of its R rating. What parent doesn’t take their kid to see “The King’s Speech” because it’s rated R? It’s not like they were asking to see “Basic Instinct” here […] I don’t know anybody who’s dying to see “The King’s Speech” again as a PG-13 film. You know how you drum up interest in a new cut? Make it super insane hard R cut of the film. “The King’s Speech” by way of Kim Ji-woon and Gaspar Noe. “The King’s F$#@ing Speech.” Admit it: you’d be interested.

Josh Tyler at Cinema Blend:

Don’t support it. Don’t let people you know support it. Help save The King’s Speech and stand up for stuttering sufferers everywhere, by letting the Weinstein Company know that neither you, nor anyone you know will buy a ticket for their censored version in the comments section below.

Instead of supporting censorship, strike a blow for free speech by encouraging everyone you know to get out and buy the R-rated version of the movie when it’s released on DVD and Blu-ray April 19th.

Tyler also wrote a longer piece on the issue last month, which includes the following claim:

This Will Endanger Your Children
If you’re one of a handful of Americans worried your child might hear a curse word, censoring those syllables out of the movie probably seems like a good way to protect them. Here’s why it’s not: Since censoring the movie supports the MPAA’s system it only gives them more power to rate movies incorrectly, and that’s far worse for your kids than the “F” word. See, their ratings system only really exists to help parents decide what their children can see, but the MPAA’s ratings are all over the map and as a guideline for protecting your kid they’re misleading at best and useless at worst.

Nomad at The Lazy Geeks, with a title also calling for a boycott:

I find this redux of an excellent film simply for fattening your payroll receipts is obnoxious. Why would you think teens would go see this movie? How many of you would like to sit in a theater mixed with teens seeing a period piece? […] I say, see it now, or wait until the DVD is released.

Here is one of the “offensive” scenes in all its R-rated glory. Of course, you have to be old enough to view/hear it:

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