ArgusLeader.com: September 15, 2007 – “Family (video) values”

Despite all the sex and violence on DVD, you still can find the right flick for your family

By Jay Kirschenmann
Published: September 15, 2007
ArgusLeader.com

Selecting a movie to watch with a mixed group can be a daunting task, especially for family gatherings.

With up to three generations watching, each has vastly different embarrassment levels for sexual scenes, annoyance with too many violent blood and gore portrayals, and disgust with nasty language.

“Our kids are pretty young, but still we rely on common sense, ratings, and maybe choose movies we’ve seen before to watch in mixed company,” said Paul Krueger of Sioux Falls. He and his wife, Joni, and two preschool-aged children often visit the youngsters grandparents, which include some movie watching.

There are tools out there to help families make safe choices, from movie ratings offered by the Dove Foundation and family sections on Netflix.com and Amazon.com, to the ClearPlay brand DVD players that drops the sound during profane language or jumps over graphic scenes.

Technical advances

A DVD player sold by the ClearPlay company is $49.95, and monthly membership is $8 to download software from its Web site to remove objectionable parts of movies.

Customers use a small, hand-held flash drive to download specific movie filters, then upload the automatic editing instructions to the special DVD player.

Movies themselves remain intact, and can be used from off the shelf at rental stores or from a movie buff’s library. Technicians watched the movies and use the built-in time code stamp to tell the machine what to do and when.

Sections are electronically marked with categories users can later choose to turn on or off. A viewer can set tolerance levels of sexual content, and choose between types of violence and swear words.

“So far we have filters for more than 2,300 movies, and our filter development team creates filters for new releases every week,” said Carlton Hinton, company spokesman at ClearPlay’s Salt Lake City headquarters. The company has members in every state, he says, numbering in the “tens of thousands” of subscribers.

ClearPlay survived where other companies failed, because it does not edit the original movie. The courts shut down companies like FamilyFlix, which was forced to stop editing and then selling their versions of movies.

Making choices

Instead of using technology, the Kruegers usually preview movies before showing them to their parents and kids, Emily, 4, and Matthew, nearly 2.

“Even movies like ‘Shrek’ have adult themes and humor, but are probably OK for the kids,” Paul Krueger said.

Most programs on Prime Time TV are off limits, so they use a digital video recorder to stockpile safe programming for later viewing.

G-rated movies usually are safe, he said. He admits that most group movie watching are themes for the kids, but the parents and grandparents have fun watching the kids’ reactions to the movie.

For older mixed groups, there are helpful Web sites to help make movie choices.

The Dove list

A group of dads who were fed up with guessing at movie choices initiated the beginnings of a free list of online movie reviews, said Dick Rolfe, co-founder and CEO of Dove Foundation.

“About 17 years ago, a group of fathers challenged me with the question of how comfortable I felt going out and making entertainment choices at the local movie rental store,” Rolfe said.

“I told them that I felt very uncomfortable and ill at ease with making any choices, so we got together to find a solution,” he said, from Dove’s Grand Rapids, Mich., headquarters. “Our mission is to encourage and promote the creation, production, distribution and consumption of wholesome family entertainment.”

They tried to lobby movie makers for more general ratings, but Hollywood didn’t listen, Rolfe said. So Dove helped video stores create sections of Dove-approved movies, putting their stickers on VHS tape cases. While there still are “Dove Approved” DVD stickers, today the group’s efforts are aimed at reviewing movies and posting results online.

Reviews are listed by color: Red are not approved and green are approved as family friendly, considering language, nudity, sex and violence.

Groups similar to Dove have Web sites that list only movies the sponsoring group approves. Rolfe said Dove decided to put all reviews online.

“In the beginning, we listed approved titles but people didn’t know if we had reviewed other movies and not awarded the seal, or didn’t see it yet,” he said. “So we decided to put everything up. That way a person can make a choice themself.”

There are “wonderful films” that Rolfe said do not have the Dove seal of approval, but are just are not a film a 6-year-old viewer should see. His goal is for people to make informed choices.

Religion doesn’t play a part in Dove’s choices.

“Our standards resonate with people of faith, but Dove is a non-sectarian organization,” he said. “We do not subscribe to any particular doctrine or theology. We serve the family in the broadest sense of the term, of various faiths, or no particular faith at all, but unified in their desire to see wholesome stories.”

Reach reporter Jay Kirschenmann at 331-2312.

Published: September 15. 2007 1:55AM