Despite the title, most of the movie is not about the Cleanflix corporate entity, but about one man, Daniel Thompson, who was involved in the edited movies movement, both under the Cleanflix umbrella and out from under it, for a number of years. Daniel was a very vocal advocate for the movement, and he truly went down with the ship - I'll leave it to the viewer to watch the film and find out how.
Was what the movie editors doing legal? I'm not sure that was ever adequately determined, but as Daniel continues to press his luck in more and more creative ways through the course of the film, it stops being about what is legal and starts seeming to be more and more about what is morally right. The interesting dichotomy comes to the forefront in interviews with some of the edited movies customers. Why would a guy who says he is opposed to graphic violence even be interested in movies like "Goodfellas" and the Godfather series? And, if there is a moral problem with watching a movie made by a corrupt film industry which refuses to issue cleaned-up versions of its product, how is it okay to pay money for their product even if it has been sanitized after the fact? The edited movie industry always operated under the premise that one copy was purchased from Hollywood for every copy sold. Buying a cleanflix copy of a movie still (in theory) sent money to the film studio that put the sex, profanity, and violence in the movie in the first place.
I was aware of the edited movie phenomenon while it was going on; I never purchased an edited movie, but for a while I was a ClearPlay customer, and I did enjoy being able to watch certain movies with my kids present that I would not have watched otherwise. It was interesting to finally be able to get some of the back story of Cleanflix and their copycats and hangers-on, and see some of the connections I was not aware of, such as the genesis of the idea being based on teachings of the Mormon church. I wouldn't call this a spectacular film, and I came out of it wondering about certain elements of the chronology (how did Daniel's incident with the teenage girls occur inside his store after his store was already closed down permanently?), but it's certainly an interesting story. If you have any interest in the movement Cleanflix was part of, definitely take a look.
In any event, a well-done film on a controversial subject. Also, I'll NEVER live in Utah!
Not to mention, all of the people that are doing this are total hypocrites. Their "holier than thou" attitudes are blinding themselves to their own immoral and illegal actions.
What is this world coming to?
I talk a lot about the Hays Code. It's an important aspect to the history of film in the United States; the Hays Office and its head, Joe Breen, shaped the course of the film industry in the United States for decades. What I have said all along is that its basic premise was a fallacy. The purpose of the Hays Code was to ensure that every single film to be released was appropriate for the entire family, that there were no films which dealt with subjects that weren't fit for children. Not interesting for children, sometimes, but even those had to be handled in such a way so that it was nearly impossible for anyone to take offense. The simple fact is, not every film has to be for everyone. I remember being sent out to play as a child because my mother had rented a movie she very much wanted to see but which she didn't want [i]us[/i] to see. Given Mom, she had probably intended to watch it after we went to bed but fallen asleep.
However, there are some people who won't accept the idea that you just shouldn't watch a film if it offends your sensibilities. To that end, Ray Lines founded CleanFlicks, a company which took PG-13 and R-rated movies and edited out the offensive content so that films such as [i]A Clockwork Orange[/i] and [i]Silence of the Lambs[/i] would at long last be acceptable viewing for the whole--Mormon--family. The Prophet says you can't watch R-rated films? No problem! Simply remove the offensive content, and you can watch [i]Kill Bill[/i] to your heart's content. Naturally, two things happened. The first was that swarms of competitors started up. The second was that the Directors Guild of America took note and was extremely upset. Before they decided whether to sue or not, a CleanFlicks distributor decided for himself that he would preemptively sue them to prove that the business was legal. To the surprise of, well, the kind of people who approve of CleanFlicks, it turns out that it isn't.
Those movie examples were not picked at random, mind. They were three of the films either specifically mentioned in the documentary or shown on the shelves of the various rental outlets in which CleanFlicks and its competitors appeared. Now, the people who do the editing for these versions freely admit that there's only so much they can do. No matter how much content you remove from [i]Pretty Woman[/i], it is still, in fact, about a prostitute, and they released no version of that movie. Similarly, [i]Sin City[/i]'s sex, violence, and swearing are too integral to the story and cannot be removed. However, we are shown both the original and edited versions of a clip from [i]The Big Lebowski[/i], and removing the sexual content removes all the logic, such as it is, from the scene. It is also observed that, for all the complaints about violence, the version of [i]Fargo[/i] that just has the sex taken out is extremely popular, and [i]Fargo[/i] is not exactly a nonviolent movie. Nor is [i]Saving Private Ryan[/i] nor [i]Braveheart[/i].
The people running the edited-movie businesses maintain that there is no argument about artistic integrity possible, because after all, studios release bowdlerized versions for airplanes and television, and directors don't have a problem with [i]that[/i]. Which, of course, isn't true, but even if it were, we've already discussed how such edited versions of movie fall flat. There is nothing funnier to a twelve-year-old boy than the way TV edits of movies alter the swearwords to pretend that they were never there. What's more, a customer is interviewed who complains about the "gratuitous" violence of [i]The Godfather[/i]. This merely proves that the customer doesn't know what "gratuitous" means, as every moment of violence in that movie serves in some way to move the plot. I do think there's such thing as gratuitous "adult" content, but that doesn't mean that it all is. Another person complains about the rape in [i]Schindler's List[/i], failing to understand that such a movie needs to shock and horrify to make its point.
Around the time this documentary was made, CleanFlicks relaunched its by-mail business, this time with a promise that the only movies they would rent were movies that contained no sex, violence, or swearing. Not because of editing, but because that's how they were made in the first place. And you know, I'm okay with that. One of the things I know about my upcoming parenthood is that I will be called upon to make decisions about what is appropriate for my kid as it gets older, and for the first few years, most of the movies I will show are the ones that fit the CleanFlicks model. (There's actually nudity in [i]My Neighbour Totoro[/i], when the family takes a bath together.) It will be my responsibility as a parent to make sure that my kid doesn't see graphic sex or violence. So I won't be showing the kid [i]A Clockwork Orange[/i] any time soon. So much simpler than hoping that the person doing the editing has the same taste in that regard as I. And no pesky meddling with copyright law!