hitchcoverGrade:  B
Entire family:  No

2012, 98 min., Color
Rated PG-13 for some violent images, sexual content, and thematic material
Aspect ratio:  2.40:1
Featured audio:  DTS-HD MA 5.1
Bonus features:  B
Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy, UV

Given the notorious content of Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 thriller best known for its shower-scene murder, you’d think that a film about the making of Psycho wouldn’t make for family viewing. But there are two Hitchcocks, really.

First, there’s the one who’s taught in film classes. Hitchcock directed 67 films, most of them suspenseful dramas like Rear Window, Vertigo, North by Northwest, or The Man Who Knew Too Much—all of which, by the way, are still suitable for older children.

A different Hitchcock greeted TV audiences from 1955 to 1962 with “Good Evening” and deliberately played a slightly caricatured or campy version of himself as the host of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. The anthology series contained almost as much tongue-in-cheek humor or black comedy as suspense or scares, and the portly Master of Suspense appeared to be having a great time. This Hitchcock was a ham who delighted in posturing and who made horror and the supernatural campy fun.

It’s the second, more playful and caricatured Hitchcock that we get from screenwriter John J. McLaughlin (Black Swan) and director Sacha Gervasi (Anvil: The Story of Anvil) in Hitchcock, a film that caused more than a few critics to snub their noses at Anthony Hopkins’ performance for being “scenery chewing.”

Well, the Hitchcock Americans saw on TV really was a scenery-muncher, but he savored every bite. It was all in good fun, and so is this film, which is based on the book Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, by Stephen Rebello. Hopkins captures the TV Hitchcock perfectly, even down to the cadences and dramatic pauses that the director used for effect. For fun, the filmmakers have Hitch introduce the movie and comment at film’s end, treating the film itself like an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

hitchscreenHelen Mirren is perfectly cast as Hitchcock’s wife Alma, with whom he often collaborated. As Alma she projects the kind of warmth and down-to-earth, rooted-in-reality foil that Hitchcock needed to keep him grounded. She can “handle” him in ways that the studio chiefs or actors or crew can only dream of.

Like My Week with Marilyn, which offered a behind-the-scenes look at Monroe during filming of The Prince and the Showgirl, Hitchcock follows the rotund one as he fights to make Psycho with Janet Leigh (Scarlet Johansson) and Anthony Perkins (James D’Arcy). Ordinarily, a film about a husband and wife with relationship problems and a third wheel—a former writing partner (Danny Huston) who looms as a further threat to their marriage—would be boring stuff for children. It’s Hopkins’ portrayal of Hitchcock and some smart writing that makes it more fun.

There’s violence, of course. Scenes in which Hitchcock hallucinates or gets lost inside his mind talking with mass murderer Ed Gein are spots where you might want to tell them to go fetch a movie snack. Hitchcock is rated PG-13 for some violent images (including the opening), sexual content, and thematic material. Women are seen in underwear and there’s a suggestion of nudity or sex, but nothing graphic. The most frightening scenes don’t have any blood at all. That said, the PG-13 rating is one that ought to be followed, unless you have a mature 12 year old and want to do a Hitchcock-themed night with The Man Who Knew Too Much as the appetizer and Hitchcock as the entree.