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The MPAA movie rating system is by no means a natural topic for an entertaining documentary. There is not much star glamour to be expected (because stars from either behind or in front of the cameras have enough reasons to avoid clashing with the MPAA), but rather some arthouse-ish directors and authors on their personal crusade for artistic and creative freedom and against US hypocrisy. If you like to listen to these people (and an indication whether you do or not would be whether you have enjoyed Peter Biskind’s books about all these ridiculous backstage proceedings), this is an extremely entertaining film. It mixes methods from early Michael Moore films with "Supersize Me" self trials, has some glorious characters in its center (most importantly the ever-brilliant John Waters) and entertains the viewer with spicy and hence controversial footage. The aim of identifying the rating board’s identity is not much more like a McGuffin in my eyes, because while the fact that it is anonymous can be criticized and the fact that there are no "experts" on it, too – the actual identity of the persons is of no interest whatsoever. But it provides the red thread along which stories can be told, dramas can be re-lived and utter puzzlement about rating standards that apparently lack any intelligent coherence can be illustrated by way of split-screen editing.

The audio commentary is quite interesting, where producer, director and private investigator are being moderated by a journalist, talking about some of the issues in more detail. The key criticism raised in the reviews was not resolved there, either, however: Does the film enjoy itself a liitle bit too much for bashing an existing system that is far from being perfect, and does the author shy swai from the logical next step to come up with a suggestion for reform. That question is asked in audio commentaries: "How can this system be fixed?". But the response is very vague, indeed. A bit of expert opinion on the ratings board and a more transparent process, please … pause … "I don’t know." Had he known, the film would have been less entertaining and had to tackle some rather dull issues (such as appropriate content classifiers, or more in-depth analysis of what psychological studies have taught us over the last decades). So I would not blame him for sticking to the provocative, while less constructive, side of the story, because as can be learnt not the list from the big spin doctors such as Valenti: the message has to be easy to reach your audience.

Highly enjoyable, at least for movie buffs, and some good recommendations for missed films can be found, as well (in particular the reference to the "extra scenes" on "Team America" make me want to buy the DVD NOW!).

 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0493459/
NYT:
http://movies2.nytimes.com/2006/09/01/movies/01rate.html
LA Times:
http://www.calendarlive.com/movies/cl-et-rated1sep01,0,1263356.story
Guardian / Observer:
http://film.guardian.co.uk/Film_Page/0,,1841808,00.html
Variety:
http://www.variety.com/index.asp?layout=features2006&content=jump&jump=review&head=sundance&nav=RSundance&articleid=VE1117929375&cs=1&p=0

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