Like apparently everyone else, I went and saw Deadpool over the long holiday weekend. I’ve never been much of a fan of the character, or of Ryan Reynolds for that matter. But I’d heard good things and was willing to give it a chance. By the end of the opening credits — some of the best I’ve seen in a long time — I was on board, and it’a a funny, irreverent, raunchy send-up of everything we’ve come to love (and hate) about super-hero movies. I had a great time.
I probably would have had a better time if I wasn’t thinking about the six-year old kid sitting down the row from me and how he might have been reacting to Reynolds and Morena Baccarin making the loud rowdy for a good ten minutes.
It wasn’t like people didn’t see this coming. An R-rated super-hero movie was just begging for confused parents to show up with little Timmy in tow thinking they were in for another Spider-Man. Facebook and Twitter were awash with public service announcements firmly establishing that this was not a kids’ film. Theaters had signs plastered to their box office windows reminding people of the fact. There’s a gigantic letter R on all the posters. And still, from what I’m hearing and what I saw first-hand, bunches of parents saw “Marvel” and spandex and figured it was time for a family outing. And ended up with enough uncomfortable conversations to last them a lifetime.
Now in the grand scheme of things, there’s rated R and there’s RATED R. And honestly, Deadpool is probably on the lighter end of the spectrum. The violence is pretty cartoony, and the language, while definitely raw, is just as cartoony. This isn’t a Scorsese film. If I was the father of a relatively sophisticated 11- or 12-year old, I’d probably take them to see it, provided we had a good long talk beforehand. A teenager? No problem; it’s an inherently juvenile film (and character) anyway.
But I don’t care if you were the inspiration for Baby Geniuses, there are just some things a 6-year old isn’t prepared to handle. There’s no good way to explain to someone who still thinks Sesame Street is high concept that Baccarin offering to sit on Reynolds’ face doesn’t mean she’s looking for a comfortable place to rest for a bit. And I really don’t want to be sitting next to you while you make the attempt. Because that’s what inevitably happens. The kid starts asking questions, the parent begins answering them, and then my nice, adult, R-rated movie experience is now accompanied by a toddler-specific commentary track.
I know there are some kids who can handle more than others; when people would ask me at Universal if their kid would think a ride was scary, I’d ask what the scariest movie they’d seen was and get answers ranging from A Nightmare on Elm Street to E.T. And yes, any parent is going to know their kid better than I do. But the paying audience for an R-rated film isn’t the time or place or test the kid’s limits.