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Appropriate trailers arent always for appropriate films
Colin Firth is attacked by a mob in "Kingsman: the Secret Service," a violent R-rated comic book adaptation with a benign trailer. - photo by Chris Hicks
A few months ago when trailers started popping up in local theaters for Kingsman: The Secret Service and Chappie, both were being sold aggressively as comic fantasy adventures that could appeal to a wide audience.

Kingsman, based on a 2012 graphic novel, seemed to resemble the old British TV series The Avengers, overlaid with a 21st century superpowers motif. And Chappie appeared to be a blend of RoboCop, The Terminator, Mad Max and especially the 1980s family comedy Short Circuit.

Neither film had yet been rated, and the trailers were preceded by the usual green-card appropriate for all audiences banner which, of course, means that while the two-and-a-half-minute trailer is appropriate, the film may not be.

My wife and I were intrigued. Joyce isnt big on superhero or robot pictures, but these two movies promised a lot of humor and warmth, which can be a mitigating factor. So we were prepared to see them fully aware that neither film was made with us in mind.

Hey, were old and we know it, and Hollywood doesnt care about anyone over the age of 49. And, actually, thats just a random demarcation number someone came up with, that Hollywood supposedly targets ages 18-49.

In truth, Hollywood doesnt really care about anyone over the age of 30, and if they have the maturity level of a 14-year-old, so much the better. And if they are actually 14, so much the best.

We also began to notice some very young children in multiplex corridors expressing interest in both films, but especially Chappie.

Oooh, I wanna see that one, one young boy said to his mother as he pointed at a Chappie poster in the hallway, possibly anticipating a Chappie action figure in his next Happy Meal.

It was natural to assume that both Kingsman and Chappie would carry PG-13 ratings and connect with their target audience young teens who might see it, and then go back again and again, bringing friends.

So it was a genuine surprise when both were released with R ratings. And both are very hard Rs.

Kingsman was first out of the gate, and it was a bit of a shock loads of extremely graphic (if computer-animated and cartoony) violence and gore, including a man being literally sliced in half. There's the requisite foul language, along with a climactic sexual gag that is so utterly and surprisingly tasteless it would be more at home in the next Hangover sequel.

Ditto Chappie, which is loaded with foul language and visuals that include crass graffiti and obscene tattoos. Theres also a quick shot of a nude woman on a TV screen (how gratuitous is that?) and the final quarter devolves into a graphically violent bloodbath.

R-rated movies targeting young audiences is no new phenomenon, of course. It happens from time to time.

In the 1980s, you could make a case that RoboCop and Total Recall, among others, targeted young teens in their ad campaigns, but it was also clear from the trailers that those films would be rated R.

More recently, the Blade franchise, the Punisher films and certainly the 300 movies, as well as Constantine, Watchmen and the Sin City flicks, are examples of comic-book adaptations that made no bones about being R-rated movies.

But in the case of Kingsman and Chappie, the trailers offered no clues whatsoever, which seems deliberately deceptive. And the warmth and humor suggested in the trailers is decidedly missing or muted in the films.

Im not nave about the popularity of some R-rated movies. Fifty Shades of Grey is currently the years No. 1 hit, having earned some $156 million in North America. (And its made more than twice that overseas.)

In fact, at the moment, half of this years top 10 movies are rated R: Fifty Shades of Grey, Kingsman, The Wedding Ringer, The Boy Next Door and Focus.

But its only March, and all five will be knocked out of that hit list over the next few months as the summer blockbusters start rolling in, most of which will be rated PG-13.

Of course, the occasional R-rated movie does climb into the top 10 and stays there all year. Its less common than it once was, but it still happens.

In 2014, it was American Sniper (although 90 percent of its money was earned in 2015). In 2012, it was Ted. In 2011, The Hangover, Part II. In 2009, The Hangover.

There were none in 2013 or 2010.

Obviously, PG and PG-13 movies in general do bigger business. Statistics show that if teens go, movies make more money. So R-rated movies in general simply do not fare as well.

And, though I have no stats to support this, Im convinced that a lot of adults also avoid certain R-rated movies. (And yet, more than half the films released each year continue to be rated R. Go figure.)

As a coda, Chappie opened a week ago and did rather poorly in what proved to be a very soft weekend for movies domestically. And it did no better internationally.

Kingsman, on the other hand, opened about a month ago and has done moderately well at the domestic box office, earning nearly $100 million so far and another $150 million overseas. Expect a sequel.
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