If you've seen the rather impressive trailers for this weekend's new adventure film, 'Sanctum,' then you know it's the story of a team of expert spelunkers who become trapped deep inside one of the planet's biggest cave systems. Going just by the trailers and TV spots, 'Sanctum' looks exactly like the kind of movie that a mom and dad could bring their 14-year-olds to see: a non-kiddie adventure flick that's still "grown-up" enough to be cool.
Oh, except that Universal is releasing its "big 3D adventure" movie with an R rating. The MPAA says the R is for "language, some violence, and disturbing images," which pretty much describes every PG-13 horror film I've ever seen. So why would Universal unleash a big-budget, James Cameron–produced 3D exhibition with a R rating that they easily could have trimmed down to a PG-13?
Our own Will Goss has already seen 'Sanctum,' and here's what he has to say about its "restricted" status: "The film earns the R by delivering frequent profanity and a few rather grisly demises, but it's hardly more 'adult' than what we've seen in PG-13 films like 'True Grit.' I'm not saying they should have done it, but this movie could easily be PG-13 with only a few nominal trims here and there."
My theory is a paranoid one, and it's this: that when a film is "tracking" badly, distributors will pull some crazy tricks. If, for example, Universal knows that 'Sanctum' is about to under-perform, they might approve that R rating as a strategic move: it'd be easy to believe that 'Sanctum' did poorly (at least partially) because of its prohibitive R rating. It sounds like paranoid lunacy to imply that a studio would shoot its own film in the foot, but we're not talking about a hardcore action flick that "demands" an R rating. We're talking about a big 3D "event" flick with Jim Cameron's name plastered all over it -- that's being released in the dead of winter.
Plus we all know how the distributors covet that damn PG-13 rating so much. So what's the deal with 'Sanctum'?