Although still lovable and the epitome of cute, Matthew O’ Callaghan’s “Curious George” is a bit bland for anyone over the age of six.
Universal Pictures could have easily followed the Pixar design with its movie version of the classic, dictating a spiced-up, CGI-ed kind of glory, with a wisecracking George hip to all sorts of slang. Fortunately, the creators of “Curious George” have gone old-school, deciding to return to 2-D, hand-drawn animation and kiddy-style content.
While the plot is changed from the original H.A. and Margret Rey story—and given some modern spin, a camera phone is a key prop—the essence is the same. The Man in the Yellow Hat (now given a name: Ted) goes to Africa and later returns home, followed by a furry friend. The monkey, George, causes mischief with his curiosity. Ted tries to keep George out of trouble. Repeat these sequences a couple of times, and you have a movie.
George doesn’t speak—a wise choice—and accordingly, his humor is more physical than verbal. During one scene, Ted tries to get his hat back from George and offers George a sandwich in exchange. Eventually, Ted rises victorious, only to realize that he is wearing the sandwich on his head. As I learned from the six-year-olds seated around me, this is very, very funny.
The voices cast for the movie suggest some attempts at appeasing an older audience. In addition to Dick Van Dyke, Ted’s boss, we are treated to Drew Barrymore as Ted’s love interest, and the ubiquitous Will Ferrell voicing Ted himself. Ferrell delivers his trademark inflection and comic timing, and was far less distracting than I expected.
The spirit of the movie can be summed up in its soundtrack. Jack Johnson wrote and performed a set of new songs for the film. The lyrics narrate the action with words such as “my mind begins to spread its wings, there’s no stopping curiosity” and “the trouble I find is the trouble finds me.” Johnson’s music is laidback and lulling, falling nicely into the background.
Don’t be fooled by the “Show me the monkey” advertisements—this film is strictly juvenile. And it’s almost certainly better that way. The next CGI-ed film is just around the corner, but how often do the youngest children get a movie tailored specifically for them? I had “My Little Pony.” Today’s little kids deserve to have “Curious George.”
—Staff writer Margaret M. Rossman can be reached at email@example.com.