There is no such thing anymore as a mass-marketed children's film.

Sure, 'Despicable Me' hits theaters this weekend and, I'm sure that in a review we'll read or hear the phrase, "The kids will love it, and there's plenty in there for the parents, too." This, or a version of that sentence, pops up a lot in critics' reviews of animated films -- to the point that it has become a cliche. Well, of course. Parents are the people who bring the kids to the theaters, and if parents aren't enjoying what they're paying for, they're going to leave the kids at home and see something like 'Predators' (most definitely NOT a movie for children) instead. In this context, do "children's movies" still exist?

There is no such thing anymore as a mass-marketed children's film.

Sure, 'Despicable Me' hits theaters this weekend and, no doubt in a review we'll read or hear the phrase, "The kids will love it, and there's plenty in there for the parents, too." This, or a version of that sentence, pops up a lot in critics' reviews of animated films -- to the point that it has become a cliche. Well, of course. Parents are the people who bring the kids to the theaters, and if parents aren't enjoying what they're paying for, they're going to leave the kids at home and see something like 'Predators' (most definitely NOT a movie for children) instead. In this context, do "children's movies" still exist?

Toy Story 3I'd never given it much thought before. I mean, this doesn't seem like a terribly new phenomenon; it kind of seemed like animated films from the 1940s were always for adults. Re-watching old Looney Tunes cartoons, I realized I had no idea of the social commentary that was being presented when I viewed those same cartoons through five-year-old eyes.

I saw 'Despicable Me' and 'Toy Story 3,' two very different films, by myself -- that is, by myself in the respects that no one went with me to either viewing, but there were plenty of parents and children at both. When I was really paying attention to the adult aspects of both films -- almost trying to approach the films as a child would -- what was surprising to me was the sheer number of jokes that would be completely lost on children (and some adults that I know).

'Despicable Me' is the story of Gru (Steve Carell), a supervillain who is a bit past his prime. He's being overshadowed by younger, hipper supervillains, so he decides to steal the moon. And maybe I don't completely understand the psyche of the average child, but I can't get past the notion that, for the most part, kids in the theater seemed to react the most to characters falling down and fart jokes (and a pretty great 3-D roller coaster scene). Do you know what the kids in the audience didn't react to? A Lehman Brothers joke. But the adults sure did.

The dialogue throughout, as with pretty much all animated films today, was written for adults, though the thought of a child understanding that joke is amusing on its own. "See, Dad, it's called the Bank of Evil because it was formerly Lehman Brothers. Lehman Brothers was a financial services corporation that declared bankruptcy in 2008 after the subprime mortgage crisis" (full disclosure: I had to look some of that up). Alternate explanation: "See, Dad, I laugh at farts because they make a funny noise and stink."

MinionsDuring a scene in which the little yellow minions are busy making copies of their butts on the office copy machine, there weren't many children who were laughing because they remembered Steve from accounting doing the exact same thing during last year's holiday party. More than a few adults did, though. See, that's the thing. I completely enjoyed 'Despicable Me,' and I had no investment whatsoever in finding entertainment for a child. I've never once been captivated enough while flipping through channels to watch an entire episode of 'Dora the Explorer.'

I don't feel that films like 'Despicable Me' offer "something for the parent, too"; I think they offer "everything for the parent." The visuals may distract the kids, but the writing is all for the adults. There are almost two separate laugh tracks during the film -- the high-pitched laugh track from children, and the lower-pitched laugh track from adults.

And then there's 'Toy Story 3,' a film that might as well be two completely different films for those over and under the age of 10. While the kids seemed to be the most delighted human beings on the face of the Earth during the film -- walking and talking toys! -- I could only guess that the kid who pointed at me and whispered to his mother was asking, "Why is the man by himself crying?" (OK, yes, I HOPE that's what he was asking.)

Care BearsLook, I knew 'Toy Story' was going to be an emotional film, because I had been warned. But I still walked into there with the misconceived notion that it was a "children's film." I thought people were overreacting. I even tweeted there was no way that I was going to cry, and that didn't turn out so well. I have never seen a film deal quite so well with the acceptance of death. These are most certainly adult issues, not a children's issue for a children's film.

The true children's animated film is dead, and this is a good thing. They're too expensive to produce these days without the assurance that adults will come back for return viewing. You're just not going to see a 'Rainbow Bright' or a 'Care Bears' film -- these go directly to DVD.

Think of it like this: No adult is going to watch true children's television programming by him or herself. This isn't the case for modern cinema, primarily because, again, the cinema is fully targeted toward adults. Why? Well, money is a big reason. The original 'Care Bares' film had a budget between $2 and $4 million. 'Despicable Me' has a budget of $110 million. That's 110 million different reasons the film industry is not going to let the opinions of your little bundle of joy decide if the studio is going to make a profit that year or not.

If nothing else, at least it's nice to know that the day I have kids, I won't have to change my moviegoing choices. Well, other than 'Predators.'