I've been a fan of Roger Ebert ever since I was a 12-year-old kid falling in love with the film world through repeated viewings of Star Wars. Ebert's movie reviews have always made sense to me. Most of them anyway. And his TV show co-hosts (the late Gene Siskel and now Richard Roeper) have always left me scratching my head with their elitist view of the film-going experience. I could always count on siding with Ebert if he and his co-host had a difference of opinion.
Yesterday I was watching Ebert and Roeper review the new children's film Curious George and witnessed this exchange:
Ebert: "Curious George is not a family film. It's a children's film. It tells its story in beautiful visuals of innocence and simplicity, and it's deliberately aimed at younger viewers."
Roeper: "I agree with everything you're saying and that's why I'm giving it a thumbs down. It is a children's movie and, as such, it's sweet and innocent, with nice little songs by Jack Johnson, the voice-over acting is fine, and the artwork is faithful to the original. If you want to see a sweet movie, go. But to tell people my age, or someone twenty-five, that they should spend nine or ten bucks to see this movie, I can't do that."
My first thought was, "What adult is going to mistake Curious George for a grown-up movie? A confused Republican perhaps?" My wife was a little more harsh, shouting at the TV, "That guy's an idiot!"
Ebert probably thought so too, but then he mulled it over before writing up his review of the movie for the newspaper. He agrees that Roeper was right, that critics have a responsibility to recommend films based on personal enjoyment rather than that of some hypothetical audience. But he also points out that even a grown man can review a kids' film because he himself was once a kid and remembers what was good or bad entertainment at that age.
He ends his review with the most important part: Is this movie for the whole family to attend? No, it is a movie for small children and their parents or adult guardians, who will take them because they love them very much.
Good enough for me and my kids!