Comic book aficionado Kevin Smith says the "really wonderful" Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey, the Suicide Squad spinoff starring Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn, would have fared better with its core audience if its rating was dropped from an R to a more accessible PG-13. The Cathy Yan-directed Harley Quinn — officially titled Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) before exhibitors enacted a title change shortly after release to improve search optimization for moviegoers — opened to $33 million before grossing $201 million worldwide, making it the lowest-earning entry in Warner Bros.' connected DC Extended Universe.
"That movie's really wonderful," Smith said about Harley Quinn when Variety referenced the movie underpeforming at the box office earlier this year. "I'm not an armchair quarterback. Nobody needs advice from the f–king guy who made Yoga Hosers. But in retrospect, that was just a case of that movie didn't need to be R-rated."
Harley Quinn's R-rating is for "strong violence and language throughout, and some sexual and drug material," something Smith says could have been curbed by cleaning up the language of bad guy Roman Sionis, a.k.a. Black Mask (Ewan McGregor).
"Other than Ewan McGregor going, 'You f–king moron,' there's not much in the movie to require it being R-rated. If you dropped it to a PG-13, I think you would've hit your core," Smith said. "It's an aspirational movie, right? It's about ladies getting together, girl power. And I would imagine a bunch of tween girls would have really enjoyed the hell out of that. And that's coming from a guy who's been making R-rated kids movies his whole career. Believe me, I know."
"I know that the studio had really high expectations for the movie — as we all did. There were also undue expectations on a female-led movie, and what I was most disappointed in was this idea that perhaps it proved that we weren’t ready for this yet," Yan said. "That was an extra burden that, as a woman-of-color director, I already had on me anyway. So, yes, I think there were certainly different ways you could interpret the success or lack of success of the movie, and everyone has a right to do that. But, I definitely do feel that everyone was pretty quick to jump on a certain angle."