We had dinner last night with our friends, Tim and Debbie, whose daughter Tanya is one of Megan's best friends.
Debbie, who works at Sony Pictures, told us that they had seen a preview of the new Spiderman movie. She gave it a "thumbs up."
"I didn't see the first one," she said. "But everyone says the sequel was even better."
Spiderman was the film that really set me off about the studios' practice of making good movies that are unneccesarily inappropriate for children to see -- but marketing them to kids anyway.
I told her that while I thought the first Spiderman movie was a terrific film, I thought it was way more violent than it needed to be; that the violence could have been toned down enough for a PG rating without losing any of the drama or action. I asked how this one stacked up.
Tim said, "There was one scene in there that was over the top. Even the adults in the audience were squeamish."
"Could they have lost that scene without hurting the film?" I asked.
"Oh, of course," he said.
I sighed. "Of course, they think they need that for the teen audience."
Debbie concurred. "It gives them street cred with adolescent boys."
But I wondered -- if the movie was good and had a PG rating, wouldn't the teenage boys follow? "Look at the business Shrek 2 is doing. People are seeing it again and again because it's so good. The audience for a really good family film is huge."
"I know. Every year Pixar or Dreamworks comes out with a Shrek or Finding Nemo and it breaks box office records," agreed Debbie.
Other than that, the family had enjoyed attending the preview screening. "We even got to meet Sam Raimi," Debbie said.
"Oh, the guy in Ghostbusters?" asked my husband. Too bad he wasn't kidding.
"No, that was Harold Ramis," I told him. "Sam Raimi directed the Spiderman movies."
"When he saw Tanya, he really wanted to know what she thought of the film," Debbie said. "But she got shy and wouldn't answer."
"Did you tell him that you thought that one scene was over the top?"
Debbie looked a little bit horrified. "You can't tell that to one of your directors at a screening! I told him we loved it."
"Well, someone should tell him!" I said. "I wish I'd been there. I've been waiting two years to tell him what I thought of Spiderman."
I imagined I could see Debbie making a mental note not to bring me to any of her studio's screenings...
The thing is, I loved Spiderman and I am looking forward to seeing the sequel (although I will probably have to wait for the DVD). As a one-time member of the WGA, I support the writer's and director's right to make the film they want to make. What I take offense at is when they make a movie where the objectionable scenes are truly gratuitous -- in other words, where they go farther than necessary to make their point -- and then advertise the film on Nickelodeon and come out with toys based on the movie and product tie-ins at McDonald's. They shouldn't be trying to have it both ways. If the movie is not appropriate for kids, don't market it to them. That's all I'm saying...
Then again, the parents who bring their children to the theater to see these films are also to blame. The practice would stop if more parents of young kids waited for the DVD. Movies do very well with just the teen and adult audience... but I think they would notice a big drop if the families bowed out...