I dreaded having to see Death at a Funeral, Chris Rock's American remake of the British film. For one thing, I'm ambivalent at best about the original, and the trailers for the remake looked terrible even by remake standards. Not to mention Chris Rock's (and Martin Lawrence's) unyielding passion for making bad movies. So I sat down at a press screening expecting an excruciating experience. And lo and behold, I laughed my ass off.
Since its inception in 1990, the MPAA has slapped the NC-17 on several undeserving movies. It has also withheld said application on more deserving films, either due to public fear or corporate pressure. Both cases yield ridiculous results. For example, Martin Lawrence's comedy concert film, You So Crazy, is rated NC-17, yet Mel Gibson's The Passion is rated R. One film spends 90 minutes talking about crap, Prince and getting a piece, the other spends over two hours beating the crap out of the Prince of Peace. Actions speak louder than words, and should be rated as such. If I go on a date, and we spend the evening talking, that's R (for profanity and sex-related begging). If I'm invited upstairs "for coffee" at the end of the date, that's NC-17 (for graphic sexu--oh, who am I kidding--for brief sexuality and extreme charity). Kevin Smith probably used a similar example when the MPAA rated his actionless film Clerks NC-17. He had more 'splainin' to do than Lucy Ricardo, however, when they slapped the dreaded rating on his latest, Zach and Mimi Make A Porno.
Over the last decade or so, people have been showing up in movies in which they don't belong. I'm not talking about casting boo-boos that stretch suspension of disbelief, like Denise Richards as a rocket scientist/Bond girl. I'm talking about R-rated people in G- and PG-rated movies. The current glut started in the mid 90's with Harvey Keitel in Monkey Trouble. Considering that Keitel spent the entire decade onscreen fully, frontally nude, a movie with a troublesome monkey in the title seemed perfect for him. However, Monkey Trouble was about an actual monkey, not Harvey's little bad lieutenant. The idea the title invoked was rated NC-17, but the MPAA bestowed a PG on the execution. Still, if a parent took a kid to see Harvey Keitel's Monkey Trouble, theater management should have called protective services.
Next, Eddie Murphy, a man so verbally dirty that he once did a routine on how much he cussed, showed up in Mulan, an animated Disney movie. He played a dragon, and the only "ass" that exited his mouth was the one attached to the naked guy his dragon character bit. Then Ed-DEE started talking to animals, and what he was saying to them was a whole lot cleaner than what he used to say to us. That movie, along with the Shrek series, has kept Murphy from returning to his R-rated roots. The upcoming Meet Dave appears to continue the tradition of keeping Murphy PG-13 and below.
It's been 11 years since Murphy uttered onscreen the word for which he is most famous, a word whose fame he shares with the current "what the hell is he doing in a kiddie movie" celebrity, Martin Lawrence. Lawrence recently had a minor hit with Disney's G-rated College Road Trip. This is the same man who advised putting Tic-Tacs in women's punanies, and whose mouth alone got You So Crazy rated NC-17. Now he's showing up in family-friendly movies like Open Season.
NWA's most wanted rapper, Ice Cube, has also followed this trend. First he was telling us how to, um, handle the police. Now he's falling through roofs and taking kids to amusement parks. Cube made Are We There Yet? and Are We Done Yet?; his former rap records appeared to predict he'd make "Are We Dead Yet?" and "Did You Come Yet?"
What next? Traci Lords voices an animated princess being wooed by Ron Jeremy's hedgehog prince? Formerly dirty comedians and actors in kiddie movies are akin to filming Cookie Monster giving Elmo a Princeton rub. But then again, even Norman Mailer wrote children's stories.
The overJesused folks who picketed The Golden Compass asked what would happen if their kids liked the movie and sought out the far more atheistic novel on which it was based. I ask what would happen if some parent sees Ice Cube on a CD cover at Target and brings home Death Certificate thinking the star of Are We There Yet is singing songs by Raffi.