This film could have been titled “There Will Be Beef.”
Definition of a good family movie: One that appeals to all members of the family. "Curious George" is not a family movie. It is a children's movie. There is nothing wrong with that, and a great deal that is admirable. For once the younger children can watch a movie where they have a good chance of understanding everything that happens and everything that's said. The new generation of mainstream animation has so many in-jokes that even the editors of People mag miss some of them. How many of the pre-schoolers watching "Shark Tale" realized that Sykes was named after a Charles Dickens character and looked like Martin Scorsese?
On the "Ebert & Roeper" TV show, Richard Roeper and I technically disagreed about "Curious George," even though our opinions of the movie were approximately the same. He voted thumbs down because it was aimed at children. I voted thumbs up because it was aimed at children. We both agreed it was not going to be an ecstatic viewing experience for parents.
In theory, I should have voted against it. The critic must recommend what he or she enjoys, not what some hypothetical audience will enjoy. Critics who say, "This is sure to be enjoyed by teenagers" if they are not teenagers are dummies, and the audience is the ventriloquist. Some of my colleagues say their editors require them to recommend movies on the basis of the tastes of the readers. An editor who does that is instructing the critic in falsehood and incompetence.
Having said that, and since I am not a child, how can I ethically recommend "Curious George" as a movie for children? I will quote Walt Whitman: Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes. I have no idea what teenagers think, but I know what 4-year-olds think, because I was one, an expert one, and I believe that up to a certain age all children enjoy more or less the same things: Bright colors, vivid drawings, encouraging music, a plot that is exciting but not too scary, and a character they can identify with. This character should have an older friend who guides him through neat adventures and keeps things from getting too scary. If that doesn't describe what you liked when you were 3 or 4, then I blame your parents, Mr. and Mrs. Chainsaw.