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Chris Hicks: The real-life movie ‘Hidden Figures’ is a PG-rated hit for adults

SHARE Chris Hicks: The real-life movie ‘Hidden Figures’ is a PG-rated hit for adults

The movies I enjoyed most in 2016 leaned toward the true stories. How true they are is up for debate, of course, but as motion pictures, they are rich, fulfilling and highly entertaining.

And of those “true” movies, the best in my opinion is “Hidden Figures,” which is currently playing in theaters all over the valley. If you haven’t seen it yet, you should.

Although “Hidden Figures” has earned some status on various critics’ best-of-the-year lists — and, among other accolades, won the ensemble acting award at the Screen Actor’s Guild ceremony last month (sagawards.com) — it hasn’t earned a lot of Academy Awards love. It has just three nominations, albeit in major categories: best picture, best screenplay and best supporting actress for Octavia Spencer. (You can see a complete list of nominations at oscars.org, the Academy Award website.)

But then, many of my other favorite 2016 movies also fell off the Oscar-voting radar for some reason.

Where’s “Sully”? (Just a single technical nomination.)

Or “Loving”? (Just one nomination, for the very deserving Ruth Negga as best actress.)

How about “Denial”? (Zilch.)

And “The Man Who Knew Infinity”? (Another zilch, perhaps because the film was released too early in the year, or maybe because Dev Patel’s later 2016 picture, “Lion,” had so much traction that it came away with six nominations.)

For me, the biggest surprise omission was a film that was considered a sure thing in the best documentary category: “The Eagle Huntress.” In fact, late last year the show-biz trade paper Variety suggested that the film was too good to be isolated in the documentary category, that Oscar voters should consider it for best film or perhaps best cinematography. Instead, it was shut out.

Getting back to “Hidden Figures,” Spencer is great and deserves her nomination, but it would have been nice to see Taraji P. Henson in there as well. She was wonderfully convincing in a gentle, unassuming part that was quite unlike her usually more aggressive characters. (Actually, since Henson’s is the lead role in an otherwise close-knit ensemble effort, a best actress nod wouldn’t have been out of the question.)

Not that it matters. Sadly, the general consensus is that “Hidden Figures” isn’t likely to take home any of the three statues for which it is nominated. (And Spencer already has a supporting actress Oscar for 2012’s “The Help.”)

But if success is the best revenge, “Hidden Figures” should forget about the Academy Awards and take solace in the theater seats that are filling up. Box Office Mojo, which keeps track of such things, reports that on a budget of just $25 million, “Hidden Figures” has raked in nearly $120 million.

For the uninitiated, “Hidden Figures” is the true story of black women in the 1960s NASA space program, which focuses on three of them — and particularly on shy, withdrawn math genius Katherine Goble Johnson (Henson), who was a key figure in the first flight to orbit the Earth, manned by John Glenn.

It’s a thrilling film, filled with all the things that make movies great — tragedy, comedy, conflict, suspense, romance and, most importantly, fully developed characters that audience members come to admire as they enjoy getting to know them over two hours.

But there’s one more thing about “Hidden Figures” that hasn’t been talked about. It’s rated PG.

That shouldn’t make it unique, but it does.

The only reason “Hidden Figures” is rated PG instead of PG-13 is something that’s missing, but which shows up in just about every PG-13 movie that comes out of Hollywood: the F-word.

As I’ve written before, that coarse word seems to be the go-to choice when writers or directors or producers — or whoever — wish to ensure a PG-13 rating instead of a PG.

For some reason, Hollywood movers and shakers think that a PG film for adults just won’t make money. Well, unless it’s a cartoon. Or a faith film. Or a kids film.

But “Hidden Figures” is a terrific example of an adult movie doing just that. It’s rated PG, it’s aimed at adults and it’s a box-office smash.

By my own 2016 tally, of the 305 movies that came through Salt Lake theaters, 130 were rated R, 105 were rated PG-13, 42 were rated PG and 27 were not rated.

Of the 42 PG-rated films, 21 were animated, seven were faith films and five were aimed at children. Another three were documentaries.

And the six remaining titles that were aimed at adults? Well, they didn’t come out of Hollywood studios. They were all independent productions.

Oh, and 2016 did see one G-rated movie — and only one. The aforementioned documentary, “The Eagle Huntress.”

There wasn’t even a G-rated cartoon last year!

Anyway, if Hollywood is taking note of the success of “Hidden Figures,” perhaps we’ll see more PG-rated movies aimed at adults, and therefore without the gratuitous coarse language.

Oh, stop chortling. I can dream, can’t I?

Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." He also writes at www.hicksflicks.com and can be contacted at hicks@deseretnews.com.