A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
Most parents approach children's movies the way they approach castor oil: They take a big swallow and smile broadly, to set an example for the kids. But the kids are nobody's fools, and they know castor oil is nothing to smile about. You don't take because it tastes good, but because it's good for you.
And most "family films," alas, are in the same category. Parents have a mostly negative attitude toward them: they send the kids because they know the kids won't learn anything bad, about the world. But it's a safe assumption that the tots will also learn nothing good, or nothing much of anything, for that matter.
Something is wrong here. The great family films of years past were as absorbing for adults as for kids. They included such varied entries as "David Copperfield," "The African Queen," "National Velvet," "Snow White" and "King Solomon's Mines."
Part of the blame for the blandness of recent family films, I'm afraid, must be laid at the doorstep of that great cultural hero, the late Walt Disney, and the studio that carries on his work. Disney has about cornered the family film market, and in the process he has squeezed a lot of the liveliness out of films in this category.