Mark Burnett and Roma Downey Lose Rating Appeal for Family Film

"Little Boy" will retain a PG-13 rating, the MPAA ruled on Wednesday.

Little Boy, a family film executive produced by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, has lost an appeal for a PG rating, the MPAA said Wednesday.

The MPAA's Classification and Rating Administration, known as CARA, said the movie, about a little boy dealing with the absence of his father during World War II, had too much violence to be rated PG, so it will therefore be rated PG-13 when Open Road Films releases it in April.

The filmmakers made several short edits to the movie after the MPAA informed them weeks ago that the movie would be rated PG-13, but those tweaks did not satisfy those who were charged with rating the movie.

The next course of action was to appeal the rating, which the filmmakers did. They screened the film and presented their case to the powers that be, but they lost their appeal on Wednesday.

Burnett and Downey, the married couple behind massively successful The Bible Miniseries as well as its upcoming sequel, have been pursuing family films with inspirational messages, but some involved with the project see the PG-13 rating as an unexpected hindrance to the marketing of this particular movie.

Burnett and Downey, though, weren't personally involved in the appeals process. Open Road CEO Tom Ortenberg and Little Boy producer Leo Severino spoke to the appeals board on behalf of a PG rating for the film on Wednesday while CARA chairman Joan Graves defended the PG-13 rating.

"We set out to make a film that the entire family could enjoy together -- from kids to grandparents," said producer Eduardo Verastegui. "Our goal from the very beginning was for it to be PG and we honestly feel we have done that."

Ironically, conservative media entrepreneur Glenn Beck recently enthusiastically recommended Little Boy to family audiences and compared it to something Walt Disney ("the man, not the company") would have created. 

"Grab your spouse, your kids, go on a date, go alone or bring a friend and their family. Just see this film," Beck said.

While the MPAA referred only to "thematic material including violence," insiders say that those rating the movie objected to scenes of bigotry aimed at a Japanese man in the U.S. during the war as well as implied cruelty inflicted on a U.S. soldier by the Japanese.

"Hollywood's idea of what is objectionable content is very different from the Americans I meet when I travel across America," said Verastegui, who also plays a priest in the film.

"The parents that I know are tired of having their kids saturated with sex, violence and disrespectful behavior. Our movie has none of that," he said.

Email: Paul.Bond@THR.com

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