Consider this a consumer’s warning: If, in the coming weeks, you and yours decide to finally see what all the fuss is about and go check out that British movie with the stuttering dude, you may not be seeing the movie that won the Oscar for Best Picture two nights ago. Wait, what?
When rumors first started to leak in late January that the Weinstein Company was considering re-releasing The King’s Speech in a PG-13 version that would scrub the film’s instances of the dreaded “F-word,” our response was pretty much the common one: WTF? It seemed an odd move, and a rather greedy attempt to squeeze a few more dollars out of an already insanely profitable movie ($130 million in worldwide box office, and that was before Oscar night), but whatevs — it would probably just amount to one of those curio footnote releases, like Mel Gibson’s sanitized flop The Passion Recut or that post-DVD expanded re-release of Avatar. What we didn’t realize at the time was that the Weinstein Company was so anxious to take advantage of the millions of tweens clamoring to see The King’s Speech (seriously, why else would they be spending so much money on that Justin Bieber movie?) that they would straight-up replace the movie that’s still in theaters with this bowdlerized cut.
Is it ridiculous that the dirty-word-counters at the MPAA gave The King’s Speech the same “R” classification as blood-spattered torture fests like Saw and excrement-stained, genitalia-baring comedies like Hall Pass? Of course it is; the MPAA is a farce, and that is not a new story (see This Film is Not Yet Rated, it’s a great movie, etc.). But creating a ready-for-TBS version of the movie and putting that into theaters is not how you solve the problem. They reportedly mute the bad words in this cut. What, no bleeps? How about a flag and a gibberish word over Colin Firth’s mouth, like they do on the Ferguson show?
The rule about these re-rated re-releases is supposed to be thus: in order to avoid public confusion, a film must be out of theaters for a minimum of 90 days before a new version can be released. But somehow (cough payola cough) the Weinstein boys managed to convince the Classification and Rating Administration (CARA) to grant an exception to the rule, whereby the distributors can simply replace the R-rated version with the PG-13 version, whenever the hell they please. Their statement reads, in part, “the ratings rules allow the film’s distributor to show the MPAA and NATO that a period less than 90 days is sufficient to prevent confusion in light of circumstances related to the motion picture.” This is semi-Orwellian doublespeak; waiving this rule seems destined to cause confusion, not prevent it.
MPAA president and interim CEO Bob Pisano insists, “The Weinstein Company has undertaken a commitment to ensure, through a revised advertising campaign, that it will be clear to consumers that a newly rated version of this film is coming to theaters near them. In this case a waiver is justified.” This may very well be true. But you know what we’re willing to guarantee? That whatever that “revised advertising campaign” might be, it’s most certainly going to include some combination of the words “WINNER,” “BEST PICTURE,” and “2011 ACADEMY AWARDS,” and if they make that claim, that, friends, is false advertising. The movie that won Best Picture was not rated PG-13, and it did not mute the sound whenever King George VI dropped the F-bomb. It was rated R and it included several non-sexual uses of the word “fuck.” That’s the movie that won, and — not to put too fine a point on it — if the distributors and filmmakers involved with that film had any integrity whatsoever, they’d leave it the fuck alone.