Claiming the ratings board of the Motion Picture Assn. of America is trying to censor relevant social commentary, Miramax is expected to appeal the NC-17 given to “You So Crazy” a filmed version of comedian Martin Lawrence’s standup routine.

“The reason we made this film is because Martin has a unique way of connecting with his audience on a personal level about racism, relationships and other topical issues which concern everyone today,” said Thomas Schlamme, the film’s director.”His message is meant to be insightful and his intentions are completely without malice.”

But the MPAA dismisses the claims of censorship and note that the ratings process is voluntary.

“The notion that an NC-17 rating means a film can’t get played in theaters is a much overstated case,” said Richard D. Heffner, chairman of the Classification & Ratings Administration of the MPAA. “Filmmakers don’t have to come to us with their film; it’s a voluntary process. They don’t have to take a rating, they can walk away if they don’t agree with our decision.”

Members of the ratings board screened the film Thursday afternoon, and issued a letter to Miramax articulating their reasons for the NC-17.

Heffner declined to discuss the reason for the rating but noted that the parents who viewed the film were unanimous in their decision.

“We believe that most parents will think this film should be out of bounds for children under 17,” Heffner said. “But to say that makes it so the film can’t get distributed just isn’t true.”

The decision of the board can be appealed. According to Heffner, a second screening has been scheduled for Feb. 23, at which time the filmmakers will view the film with members of the rating board and reps from National Assn. of Theater Owners.

At the conclusion of that screening, a representative of Miramax or the film’s director will explain to the assemblage why the rating should be changed. Heffner will then address the gathering, and the board will vote again outside the presence of Heffner and the film’s reps.

“A rating can be overturned. It has in the past,” Heffner said; he noted that the Clint Eastwood-Kevin Costner starrer “A Perfect World” was changed from a R to a PG-13 as a result of lobbying by the filmmakers following a second screening.

Miramax execs, who made a statement in a press release, are expected to hold a press conference next week to announce their appeal plans. The film is scheduled to open in Los Angeles and New York on Feb. 25, opening wider March 4.

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