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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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'It's Complicated': Why the MPAA prefers smoking guns to smoking pot

December 10, 2009 |  5:13 pm

The MPAA has embarrassed itself an untold number of times over the years for its prudish attitude toward sex and its wildly permissive attitude toward violence. But what's it's done to Nancy Meyers' upcoming comedy, "It's Complicated," is perhaps the ratings board's biggest boneheaded move yet.

Its_complicated_ver2 According to a story by my colleague, Steven Zeitchik, the MPAA has given Meyers' fluffy comedy about a middle-aged love triangle an R rating because Meryl Streep and Steve Martin's (who star in the film along with Alec Baldwin) characters are seen sharing a joint while on a date.

The problem, according to people involved with the board's hearing on the issue, isn't that the actors are seen smoking pot -- it's that the scene "features pot-smoking with no bad consequences." Apparently, everything would've been fine if only the characters had been killed in a gory car crash because their reflexes were slightly impaired after sharing the joint, which surely would've served as a stern warning to kids not to ever touch the evil weed.

In other words, you can score a tidy amount of pot at hundreds of marijuana clinics across Los Angeles, but if you take a puff on a joint in a Hollywood movie, you immediately get walloped with an R rating, whether you're a gangsta rapper like Snoop Dogg or a genial white-haired Oscar host like Steve Martin.

It's another outrageous example of the lunatic priorities of the MPAA, which claims to serve the interests of parents but actually dances to its crazy drummer, happily handing out PG-13 ratings to unbelievably violent movies like "Terminator: Salvation" while whipping out the R rating at the first sign of a few naked breasts or, God forbid, an unsheathed penis. In Rob Marshall's upcoming film, "Nine," Daniel Day-Lewis smokes non stop through the entire film, but since it's only cancer-causing tobacco, the MPAA had no problems giving the film a PG-13 rating. That's a travesty. If you're going to restrict kids from seeing a movie because of pot smoking, you certainly should apply similar standards to heedless cigarette smoking. 

The R rating for "It's Complicated," which hits theaters Christmas Day, is especially ludicrous. It would be one thing if we saw Kristen Stewart smoking weed in "The Twilight Saga: New Moon," since the movie is right in the sweet spot for teens and tweeners. But if the MPAA is really sticking up for families everywhere, it hardly seems to be a parental concern that impressionable kids are going to be flocking to see a romantic comedy featuring actors who are -- in the case of Streep and Martin -- even older than some of their grandparents.

I've been ranting and raving about the MPAA's nutty priorities for years without any discernible effect. I think it's time that filmmakers and actors start sticking up for their peers, in this case Meyers, who is getting the shaft from the MPAA for a totally harmless comedy scene. Since George Clooney (and I mean this with no offense) seems to weigh in on every pressing foreign policy of the day, maybe he could spare a little interview time to take the MPAA to the woodshed, which might serve to embolden some of his more cautious brethren to speak out against an organization whose moral compass has clearly gone haywire.

Here's the trailer for "It's Complicated," where you can actually see, toward the end, the giddy after-effects of Streep's and Martin's characters' marijuana indulgence:

  

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