Fantastic Four: Unedited, or "family version"? Blogging Baby helps you decide

Filed under: Development/Milestones: Babies, Media

Fantastic FourMy wife had work she had to finish last night, so it was up to me to keep the sprouts entertained while she toiled upstairs. What's the best way to pacify four wily children at bedtime? I know - let's rent a violent superhero action flick! I can't remember how I arrived at this brilliant solution, but we all ended up watching Fantastic Four through Comcast On Demand.

I faced a conundrum when I pulled up the On Demand menu, however. Comcast is offering two different versions of the Fantastic Four: the original theatrical release, and a "Family" version edited down for young eyes. Being the iconoclast I am, of course, I said "To hell with family values", and ordered up the movie unedited.

So...should you order the family version? Actually, there are three questions to ask here: (1) Should young kids watch this movie at all? (2) Should you serve them up the "sanitized" version? and (3) Are "family" edits of movies a good thing?

(1) Should young kids watch this movie at all? By "young" here, I mean my age range of children: A four-year-old, a six-year-old, and an almost nine-year-old.

Here's the thing: the scariest parts of this movie can't be edited out. The basic story line is that the four budding superheros go on a space mission funded by soon-to-be arch-nemesis Victor von Doom, a.k.a. Dr. Doom. A freak incident in space alters everybody's DNA, giving them superpowers. Doom's power is that he can absorb and manipulate large amounts of electricity. As his power grows, his body becomes metallic, and he dons the trademark Dr. Doom mask. His appearance and his ability to absorb electricity had my kids freaked out more than anything else. Fortunately, their fear subsided as the film went on. But be warned: if you think Doom might become the stuff of your kids' nightmares, don't rent this!

(2) Should you rent the family version? Personally, I didn't find the unedited version of the movie that big of a deal. However, your mileage may vary. There were only a few scenes I considered risque or gruesome. In one of the movie's more amusing bits, Susan Storm undresses while invisible in order to get the team access to an agitated Ben Grimm. However, she's not in complete control of her powers yet, so she re-materializes while wearing nothing but a lacy bra and panties.

From one perspective, this is nothing but an excuse to get a lascivious T&A shot of actress Jessica Alba. At one time, the adult me would have thanked the studios for this. These days, I'm more apt to view this as demeaning and exploitative. However, Alba's Invisible Girl is such a tough cookie that I found this scene more amusing than crass. The film foes out of its way to make this character strong and forceful that I didn't have a problem with it. Of course, my six-year-old son went on all night about how he saw the girl in her undies, so you should take my nonplussed reaction with a grain of salt.

The scariest parts, not surprisingly, involve Dr. Doom. In the most graphic scene, Doom confronts the man responsible for shutting down his company and blasts him through the chest with a kajillion volts of electricity. The blast blows a gaping hole through the guy's body, which the camera lingers on for a good five seconds. There's no blood - presumably because the heat of the electrical jolt cauterized the wound, or some such pseudo-scientific nonsense. Still, it's a rather jarring scene, and you might not want to expose your wee ones to it.

I assume that these scenes, and more, are absent from the family-friendly version. If you think your smaller guys would be disturbed by this, or if the partial nudity goes against your values, then you should definitely go with the Disney-fied edit.

(3) Are family edits a good thing? Well, they're not a new thing, that's for sure. There's been some controversy lately about third-party edits of films for family viewing. But this is the studio itself offering a family-friendly edit. This is no different than what happened for years on network television, where studios agreed to edit the violent and racy bits out of movies so they could be shown on NBC, CBS and ABC.

Personally, I love that parents are given this choice. This should be the future of television: instead of broadcasting a one-size-fits-all version of their products, movie studios and TV producers should give us multiple edits of a broadcast available on demand, and let US PARENTS choose which shows - and even which versions of those shows - our kids should and should not be able to watch. Kudos to Comcast and the movie studios for making these options available to us. Now let's see more!

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.