A movie is rated “R” when—according to the Motion Picture Association of America—it contains “adult themes, adult activity, hard language, intense or persistent violence, sexually-oriented nudity, drug abuse,” or probably Nicolas Cage screaming about God only knows. But if you were to strip away all those elements and get to the very heart of each movie’s plot maybe, just maybe, you would have the perfect bedtime story to tell children that didn’t have any plans to get any real sleep that night anyway. (Note: There will be spoilers, but told in the gentlest, most adorable way possible.)
Bedtime Version: Three friends on a long trip ride a train that’s just like the Polar Express but goes to Slovakia instead and stop by a house that’s just like the Three Bears’ house but doesn’t really seem to have an exit. And just like in the Three Bears’ house, the friends suddenly get very sleepy and take a nap. While asleep one of the friends disappears like magic while another tired friend sees a wizard with a magic wand and then also magically disappears, piece by piece. The third friend tries to find the source of all this magic and is caught by the evil wizards, one who uses his magic wand to cause two of the friend’s fingers to magically disappear. But the friend is able to find his own wand and cause part of the side of that wizard’s head to disappear. He then stumbles upon a pile of all the other pieces the wizard made disappear before getting back on a train and teaching the very bad super wizard the importance of flushing.
Bedtime Version: Four Disney Princesses who want to go to the big spring cotillion ask their fairy godmothers for a quick means to a lot of gold coins and a getaway carriage, all of which is accomplished with no musical numbers but a lot of pretty masks. Alas, they are captured by the local ruler’s guards and held captive, until a prince with powerful connections appears and rescues them. He then takes them back to his kingdom, shows them all his wealth and power, and asks them to help him invade the realms of his enemies. Unfortunately, the enemies attack first in a ride-by on a horse. This leads to an act of revenge, which is never, ever a nice thing, especially when all the fighting princes get really, really, REALY hurt and wind up going to sleep for a very, very long time. Then the remaining Disney princesses drive off in another getaway carriage, heading back home to be good little girls again.
Bedtime Version: Once upon a time there were six knights, each named after one of the crayons in your Crayola box but all dressed in black because not everyone is good with colors. The knights go into battle to get the king’s jewels but the quest goes very badly very quickly when it turns out one of the knights is a traitor. Not all the knights make it back to their special meeting place, but those that do have a very hard time trusting each other. Fortunately, one of the knights captured a sentry from the other side to find out who the traitor is. Unfortunately, though, he refuses to listen to reason and soon can’t hear anything at all. Then the knights turn on each other and the great quest for the king’s jewels fails because they forgot two of the most important things in life—the value of teamwork and the necessity of thorough background checks.
Dawn of the Dead
Bedtime Version: One day Ana wakes up in a very different world, like Alice in Wonderland but everyone is a lot more hungry and pushy. Ana tries to escape this world but instead makes a bunch of great new friends, all who decide to hang out at a wonderful place full of all things you could ever want to wear, eat, have printed on t-shirts, and enjoy. For a little while everything is perfect aside from the end of the world as we know it, until the hungry, pushy people break into the wonderful place. Some of those hungry, pushy people are, well, a little too bitey, and you should never bite anyone, especially someone you don’t know. These bites cause many of Ana’s friends to turn into more hungry, pushy people and soon she must escape the wonderful place for a wonderful island, where everything and everybody is safe so long as we stop the story right here and you don’t ask any follow-up questions.
We’re the Millers
Bedtime Version: Some families are made up of parents and children. Some families are made up of really good friends who always stick together. And some families are formed in times of need or because it’s not safe to drive an RV all by yourself into an increasingly agitated Mexico. As it turns out, each member of this particular family has their own problem. The “daddy” owes a lot of money to some not so nice people, which in this version we’ll refer to as student loan interest to Fanny Mae. The “mommy” is a dancer who loses her job because she won’t dance harder and closer with, um, “dance instructors.” And the kids have hardships or serious medical conditions of their own. But thanks to family bonds, the kindness of strangers, the mommy’s special dance moves, and playing well with the federal government, there is nothing people who love each other or have to pretend to love each other can’t do.
Bedtime Version: A happy couple moves into a happy new home where they hear all sorts of funny noises, but they are far too happy to leave. Instead, they set up all sorts of cameras to film all the happy goings-on. But some of those happy goings-on are not so happy. Then the girl starts to feel less and less happy. Then things get worse and worse and worse and scarier and scarier and scarier until in the very last scene we find out that, uh…the ghost was just Old Man Withers! Yes, Old Man Withers, who just wanted to scare those darn kids out of their new condo so he can put up an amusement park, or something like. In fact, lets forget all about the ghosts, the demons I just realized I never mentioned, and this entire story in case your mom asks what I told you as a bedtime story.