Mark Burnett and Roma Downey's Family Film Appeals PG-13 Rating

"Little Boy" has too many scenes of war and intolerance for the MPAA's liking, insiders say.

The makers of a family film are taking the unusual step of appealing their PG-13 rating that was handed down by the MPAA because the organization didn't think themes of war and racism were appropriate for preteens.

The movie to be appealed on Wednesday is called Little Boy, which tells the story of how a 7-year-old child deals with the absence of his father, who is off fighting in World War II. Executive producers are Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, two of Hollywood's more notable champions of family films with uplifting messages.

Those familiar with the film and the appeals process said the MPAA cited "mature thematic elements" in its decision to rate the movie PG-13 instead of giving it the PG rating that the filmmakers and distributor Open Road Films are seeking.

The MPAA asked that a couple of specific scenes be toned down, and the movie was edited accordingly, said producer Eduardo Verastegui, who also plays a priest in the film. Still, the MPAA wouldn't budge from its PG-13 rating.

"This is a beautiful film about faith, love and tolerance," said Verastegui. "The couple of shots they object to are far from the level of violence found in recent family films such as Into the Woods and Maleficent."

Both of those movies are rated PG.

One scene the MPAA asked be changed involved the bullying of a Japanese man in a California town, while another involved implied mistreatment of an American prisoner at the hands of his Japanese captors.

The MPAA rates about 900 films a year, about a dozen of which are appealed, but it's usually because filmmakers are attempting to earn an R rating instead of NC-17 or a PG-13 instead of R. Philomena in 2013 and Bully in 2011, for example, each won their appeal for a PG-13 rating.

On Wednesday, an appeals board made up of 10-16 exhibition and distribution executives will watch Little Boy and will hear an explanation from the MPAA's Classification and Rating Administration as to why the movie should be rated PG-13. Leo Severino, another of the film's producers, along with Open Road CEO Tom Ortenberg will present their case for a PG rating.

"This rating comes from a misunderstanding as to what it is that parents find objectionable," said Verastegui. "The parents that I know are tired of having their kids saturated with sex, violence and disrespectful behavior. Our movie has none of that."

Open Road plans to release the film in April. The MPAA declined to comment.

Email: Paul.Bond@THR.com

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