Imagine if a movie opened in 1,000 theaters and the internet’s biggest movie site had … three reviews from “top critics.”
No need to imagine. That’s the case with “Unplanned,” a new movie released Friday that takes a critical look at Planned Parenthood.
“As one of the youngest Planned Parenthood clinic directors in the nation, Abby Johnson was involved in upwards of 22,000 abortions and counseled countless women on their reproductive choices,” Rotten Tomatoes says in a brief description of the film. “Her passion surrounding a woman’s right to choose led her to become a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood, fighting to enact legislation for the cause she so deeply believed in. Until the day she saw something that changed everything.”
Of course, all three “top critics” say the movie is “rotten.”
But there’s more going on behind the scenes. Commercials for the movie “have been rejected by Lifetime, Hallmark Channel, HGTV and several other cable networks other than Fox News,” the Hollywood Reporter wrote Friday.
Lifetime, for example, told the film’s marketers that they declined to air the commercial due to the “sensitive nature of the film,” the ad buyers tell The Hollywood Reporter. The marketers though, note that the network — which is owned by A&E Networks, a joint venture of Walt Disney and Hearst Communications — previously promoted an interview with Scarlett Johansson where she pitches Planned Parenthood.
The Travel Channel, Cooking Channel, HGTV and Food Network, each of which are owned by Discovery, also refused to sell ad time for Unplanned due to the “sensitive nature” of the movie, say those who tried buying air time.
Other networks that refused to advertise the movie include the Hallmark Channel and USA Network, the latter of which is owned by NBCUniversal.
“We were looking to spend money, but they didn’t want to get involved,” said John Sullivan, a producer of Unplanned. THR reached out to all of the networks; Lifetime declined to comment while the rest did not respond.
“Most of the networks didn’t go into detail beyond citing the subject matter of the film and that they didn’t want to get into politics. But we don’t believe we’re in the political category,” said Joe Knopp, an Unplanned producer.
“Unplanned” was already hit with an R rating, which means many people will choose not to see it, fearing gore. And some networks have used that rating as a excuse not to run ads. “Up TV cited the R rating when it also rejected the commercial, as did several Christian radio channels that also refused to air ads for Unplanned,” the Reporter said.
The rating also put family-friendly Pure Flix in the uncomfortable position of having to distribute and market an R-rated movie for the first time.
But there is one big-money backer who has got plenty of cash to push the movie. Mike Lindell, founder of MyPillow, dropped $1 million in the movie, and he’s got a big platform on social media.
“This is a true story,” Lindell said on XM’s “Breitbart News Daily.” “It’s going to help so many people change their hearts. It’s going to save so many lives. I talked to my dad. We prayed about it, and I said, ‘Let’s do this.’ I called them back and said, ‘I’ll do a cameo. I’ll do a part in it, but I want it to be a really good movie. A quality movie, because it’s got one of the best messages ever.’ I asked, ‘Are you short any money?’ and they said they were short a million dollars, and I said, ‘Well, you’re covered.’”
“I just felt led to do that,” continued Lindell. “To see God’s timing, nine months later, everything that’s happening right now, it’s just amazing. And you know it’s going to make an impact when stations aren’t advertising it. They’re afraid of it. A theater in my home state — just last week — wasn’t going to show it, and hundreds of people called there, and now they’re on-board. It’s like they’re living in fear.”
He also criticized the movie’s rating. “You give this an R-rating? Are you kidding me? A 15-year-old can go get an abortion without her parents’ permission, but you can’t go to this movie without your parents? I just think this is a turning point in our history, where some day we’re going to look back and ask, ‘What were we thinking?’”
Still, Planned Parenthood is hammering the movie. “The claims in this film are simply false,” the abortion group said in a statement. “Planned Parenthood is proud to provide expert, high-quality health care to our patients, including safe and legal abortion, in a safe and compassionate environment. The movie promotes many falsehoods including most importantly, distortions and incorrect depictions about healthcare.”
Christian Toto, one of the best movie critics out there, praised the movie in a fair and balanced review.
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“The tale is targeted to undecided souls, and on that level the film’s power is considerable,” he wrote. ““Unplanned” offers a full-throated defense of a side that often gets ignored by today’s storytellers. The drama deserves respect from both sides of the abortion debate, if only because this part of the fight is so rarely articulated on screen.