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'Mohicans' Gets an 'A' as Homework

October 22, 1992|LYNN SMITH | Lynn Smith is a staff writer for The Times' View section. This column appears weekly in OC Live!

"The Last of the Mohicans" is a blood-soaked version of James Fenimore Cooper's novel about the French and Indian War. (Rated R)

Why are so many kids going to this movie--rated R for violence--which is supposedly restricted to those 17 and over unless accompanied by an adult?

Because their teachers told them to.

They didn't learn much about the French, the English or the Indians, but they sure like this movie.

Nine-year-old Bryan went with his mother and his 15-year-old brother, Mike, who was fulfilling an assignment for World Regional Studies class at Woodbridge High School in Irvine. Mike liked it because "I'm into action-packed stuff, suspenseful stuff."

"What about the love story?" I ask. His mother and I share knowing glances.

"I'm not into love stuff," he says.

What did he learn?

"How the Indians were supporting the English. Er . . . the French?"

Bryan liked "the soldiers, the horses and the army."

"It was pretty neat," he says. "It was pretty intense too."

Yes. You have at least a couple of war parties, a scalping, the slaughter of a young girl, a heart pulled out of a chest, falls and leaps from high cliffs, multiple stabbings, rifle shootings and cannon fire.

"Our teacher said, like, 'Go see the movie,' " says Stephanie, 13, who saw it with her 10-year-old sister, Amanda--with their parents' permission.

Stephanie says she's studying this period in history in the eighth grade.

What did she learn? "I don't know."

What she and Amanda liked best was that "he" ("You mean Daniel Day-Lewis?" They nod yes) was "cute."

"I really liked that they respected each other," I say about the love story. "She was really strong, and she said what she thought."

More nods.

Amanda says the violence didn't bother her at all, but she didn't understand how the filmmakers "could do that, make the people go off the cliff."

In any case, the movie did and didn't deserve an R rating, in Amanda's opinion.

"The language wasn't bad in it," she says. "But it should be rated R because of the blood."

"If they didn't have the violence, they wouldn't have been telling the truth of how it really happened," Stephanie observes.

Both girls says they've seen more sex in PG movies and on TV.

Mike McMains, manager of the Edwards University theater, said he usually enforces the restrictions for R-rated movies. But "the thing with 'The Last of the Mohicans' is that 12-year-olds are getting extra credit (in school) for seeing the movie," he said, so he's not being as strict.

When he believes an R-rated movie (such as "Basic Instinct") is too strong for children, he said, he walks the aisles, warning parents and grandparents to take the kids to another show.

This movie, he said, doesn't exploit violence. Unlike after "Three Ninjas," 9-year-old boys don't come out of the theater imitating what they've seen.

He'd let his own children see this one, rather than the PG-rated "Encino Man," he said. "That was more objectionable. It was stupid and insulting."

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