MOVIE REVIEW: The King’s Speech (Ignore the R rating!)

The King’s Speech is a terrific film about a teacher and a student.  In this case the teacher is an unorthodox Australian speech therapist, and the student is a man who will soon be the King of England.  Despite the R rating by the MPAA, the film is appropriate for families with children ten and up.  I look forward to the DVD release so my wife and I can watch the movie again with our tween girls.

Quick Synopsis: England’s Prince Albert (Colin Firth), soon to become King George VI, is plagued by a crippling speech impediment. With her husband soon to take over the throne, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) hires Lionel Logue, an Australian actor and speech therapist, to help Albert overcome his stammer. An extraordinary friendship develops between the pair as Logue uses unconventional means to teach Albert how to speak with confidence.

The movie is British, and talkie, and historical, but it zips along and has plenty of droll wit to contrast with the dramatic tension.  Older kids will get it, be interested in it, and ultimately entertained and educated along the way.  It has terrific themes of confidence, bucking the system, and overcoming personal obstacles.  All this is in the shadow of a looming Nazi threat.  It does not get too blighty and musty, there are plenty of colonial jabs at the Brits, as it is written by an American and produced by an Australian.

The R rating is mis-applied in the case of The King’s Speech.  Upon the film’s release, the actors and film makers fought the rating boards in the US (the MPAA) and in the UK to get a more family friendly rating.  In the UK they succeeded, but in the US, it is lumped in with slasher flicks, soft core porn, and adult sex comedies.  That is a shame, and you might be surprised by the reasons.

In the US, the MPAA considers smoking a factor in restricting movies from all audiences.  Smoking. There is plenty of casual and social smoking by adults in The King’s Speech, and a jibe or two at the archaric notion that smoking was healthful.  The film is set in the 1930’s, and the historical characters were smokers.

The other thing that earned The King’s Speech the R is the word “fuck”.  It is said as part of therapy.  The therapist Logue engages a technique that demonstrates cursing flows without impediment.  It is a well placed, specifically used, narratively relevant “fuck” if there ever was one.  And yes it was fired off 42 times in quick succession. But you have yelled worse in front of your kids when you stub your toe.  Yet, the MPAA will keep the film rated R and out of consideration by parents because of their Puritanical biases.

In the UK (remember they kicked out the Puritans and sent them to the US!), the movie’s producers fought the strong initial rating given by the British Board of Film Classification.  It was reduced to 12A, the rough equivalent of our PG-13, with the disclaimer,”Contains strong language in a speech therapy context”.

The King’s Speech is good for your next family movie night with your tween and teen kids.  It is thought provoking, interesting, entertaining big kids and parents alike.

While you watch, keep an eye out for Dumbledore, Peter Pettigrew, and Bellatrix LeStrange from the Harry Potter movies!

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