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March 2006

        Issue: 15:03 [email protected]


If Only!
by Dick Rolfe, chairman, The Dove Foundation

How many times have you come out of a movie that was almost a good experience, with the following words running through your mind?  “If only they hadn’t included (you fill in the blank)—”that gross language,” “that bedroom scene,” “that bloody stabbing”!

You are not alone. Those words frequently run through the minds of reviewers here at The Dove Foundation as they leave their respective preview screenings. We could have added 24 movies to our Dove Family-Approved list since January 2005, if only…

Here are a few examples of films that almost passed muster, along with the laments of disappointed reviewers.

FEVER PITCH, starring Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon was over the top in sexual content. 

Reviewer’s Comments: Unfortunately, the entire movie surrounds an unwed couple who are clearly having a sexual relationship. At one point in the film, Lindsay confronts Ben with the news that she is “late” (and I don’t mean for an appointment). Due to this single reoccurring element Dove is unable to award this film our “Family-Approved” seal.

In recent years, fornication (let’s call it what it is) has crept into the bedroom in too many romantic comedies. The premarital sex was unnecessary in this storyline. Lindsey and Ben could easily have remained sexually pure without diminishing the fun or funny side of this otherwise entertaining film.

HITCH, starring Will Smith, Eva Mendes and Kevin James missed the mark in language.

Reviewer’s Comments: I would like to award this film the Dove Seal, but it does not meet the criteria. There are many good lessons in this movie, but language blocks it from being a family film.

When was the last time you exited a movie, thinking, “This film would have been so much better, if only they’d added a few more F-words.”?  Language was the main reason we could not award the Dove Seal to 20 of the 24 nearly-approved titles.

THE HONEYMOONERS, starring Cedric the Entertainer and Mike Epps, Regina Hall and Gabrielle Union was a bus wreck waiting to happen, due to harsh language.

Reviewer’s Comments: The reason we cannot award the Dove Seal to “The Honeymooners” is because of foul language. There is strong profanity, and Ralph isn’t even the one saying it. In this remake, it’s Alice who has the foul mouth when she feels Ralph is up to no good. It was totally unnecessary. This could have been a very cute film if the writers and studio would have eliminated all the gratuitous foul language.

Audrey Meadows would be horrified to hear such trash talk coming from the character she worked so hard to develop in the TV hit comedy series of the 50’s starring Jackie Gleason. In the original, no one doubted Alice’s toughness. All she had to do was put her hands on her apron-wrapped waist and glare at her inept, but loving husband, Ralph. (Patricia Heaton mastered that “look” in what I consider a modern remake of “The Honeymooners” – the hit series “Everybody Loves Raymond.”)

These are only a few examples of movies that could have been family-friendly with a little strategic tweaking. Not one objectionable word, action, or innuendo would have been missed if it had never been there in the first place.

Proof of this is found in the following news story about a top-level studio executive who decided to retool a near miss into a big hit. Here is how an entertainment trade publication, Studio Briefing covered the story on February 13th.

“In order to gain a PG rating for the new Pink Panther movie, starring Steve Martin, Sony movie chief Amy Pascal ordered numerous cuts in the film, including references to oral sex and erectile dysfunction, the Los Angeles Times reported today (Monday). She also approved an additional $5 million to re-shoot certain scenes and reedit others. In an interview with the Times, Sony distribution chief Jeff Blake gave the changes credit for the unexpected victory at the weekend box office. ‘We were hoping for the widest possible audience, and the PG really gave us an advantage,’ he said. Director Shawn Levy conceded the point, saying that until the cuts were effected, the film was ‘not clearly for families and it was not clearly for an adult audience…. The tinkering that Sony requested of me made the movie so much better.'”

Not one patron was quoted in the L.A. Times story complaining that the movie was ruined by Sony’s “Extreme Makeover; Family Edition.”  Even, Shawn Levy, the director agreed it made the movie better.

I am impressed by MS. Pascal’s bold and fitting decision to modify this made-for-the-family story into a version that today’s families can enjoy without equivocation. I applaud her decisive actions, and hope others in positions similar to hers will consider doing the same, when good business practice dictates.

There is an old adage that you catch more bees with honey than vinegar. Dove’s position has always been that of encourager and advocate, not condemner or warrior.

If more film makers can be encouraged to do what Amy Pascal did, the entertainment industry would make a revolutionary shift in content resulting in a dramatic increase in profits. The family audience would be better served. I believe millions of people who have been disenchanted by today’s risqué films would respond with their dollars in support of such a shift toward wholesome, uplifting entertainment choices.

Much of television has forsaken families in the past decade, leaving them with few decent options. Have you looked lately at programs that are being aired during the so-called “Family Hour”? These audience members can be easily won back into theaters by sensible, strategic-thinking movie moguls who would take the time to understand their tastes and preferences.

If you ever doubted there is a communications disconnect between the Hollywood film community and the public, here’s an interesting statistic from NewsMax Online referring to this year’s Oscar nominees for Best Picture.

“When you add up the audiences for all five Best Picture nominees, they don’t even measure up to the number of people who went to see ‘The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.'”

I’m not suggesting that Hollywood turn out endless remakes of “Curious George” or “Finding Nemo.” But, the relatively untapped Family audience has the potential for being the largest segment of the movie-going public—as evidenced by the fact that seven of the top ten US box office hits of all time are Dove approved. This proves that there is a real need for better proportionality among film categories.

Producers, exhibitors, and consumers can all benefit from more of the kinder, gentler stuff and less of the extreme, excessive stuff.

The Dove Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.  Our mission is to encourage and promote the creation, production, distribution and consumption of wholesome family entertainment.  We are supported primarily by donations from families such as yours who want to move Hollywood in a more family-friendly direction.  All donations are tax deductible.
Copyright © 2006 The Dove Foundation. All rights reserved.