CURIOUS GEORGE (Matthew O’Callaghan, 2006)
In CURIOUS GEORGE, Will Ferrell provides the voice of Ted, a museum worker who embarks on an African expedition to find a giant monkey shrine. If he doesn’t return with the artifact, the museum will shut down and become a parking lot.
Decked out in a big yellow hat and suit, Ted finds an idol that looks like the shrine but is considerably smaller than anticipated. He sends the museum’s owner, Mr. Bloomsberry (Dick Van Dyke), a cell phone photo of the dispiriting treasure, but the photo’s perspective skews the size, leading Ted’s boss to believe that the shrine is bigger than he expected. Mr. Bloomsberry covers the city in advertisements to promote this exciting discovery.
On the trip Ted meets a playful monkey, later to be named George, who follows him back to the U.S. Already facing a monumental work dilemma, Ted thinks George is a nuisance—he’s responsible for Ted getting evicted from his pet-forbidding apartment building—but the inquisitive monkey might provide the solution to his problems and the museum’s.
For more than sixty years Curious George and the man with the big yellow hat have entertained generations of young readers. The new CURIOUS GEORGE film, beautifully animated in a style similar to the drawings in the Margret and H.A. Rey books, should also enchant children.
Most of today’s animated films are made with a broad audience in mind, a strategy that has produced some delightful movies for kids of all ages--Pixar's movies immediately come to mind--as well as some creative flops (SHARK TALE, CHICKEN LITTLE) that strain to be hip enough for teens and adults. CURIOUS GEORGE’S vocal talents will appeal to those older than the target audience. Ferrell and David Cross' participation ups the coolness factor for this quaint movie. Having Jack Johnson on board for several songs, none of which are distinguishable from the others, probably doesn't hurt either. Nevertheless, this is a film strictly for those eight and younger.
Having endured plenty of family movies that try to flatter the parents for getting pop culture in-jokes, it’s nice for a film to come along that knows its audience and doesn’t talk over them in hopes of amusing the adults. The minor romantic subplot between Ted and Maggie, a teacher voiced by Drew Barrymore, is unnecessary for this film, but at least there’s not much time given to it. Also pay no mind to the tacky product placement for a certain brand of bananas.
CURIOUS GEORGE is a sweet and gentle film that views the world as a wonderful place to be explored. Some of the film’s best moments are when George helps Ted experience the simple joys of what is around him. They gaze at the stars, appreciate the beauty (but not the taste) of fireflies, and observe the city from a balloon-aided perspective.
George is as ornery and endearing as the little ones moms and dads will take to see the film. He causes some trouble, but he acts with no malice. George's impromptu paint job of a socialite’s penthouse isn’t appreciated, just like parents may not like seeing handprints on their walls, but it's hard to remain angry at the curiosity of the young, be it a monkey or a child.