Curious George certainly caters to the six and under set. But take comfort in knowing that bolstered by rich animation, comic antics and a pop soundtrack, Curious George is an adorable and heartening adaptation that does the classic children's tale justice.
In adapting a rather flimsy children's book into a full-fledged feature film, one has to take some liberties. We first meet the lovable little monkey in the wild, where his curious habits wreck havoc. Meanwhile, in the big city, Ted (voiced by Will Ferrell)--aka The Man with the Yellow Hat--is a highly enthusiastic guide at the soon-to-be-closed Bloomsberry Museum. In order to save the museum (here's where they pad it), he is sent on a mission to Africa to retrieve a lost shrine. But when he gets there the only thing he finds is a miniature version of it--and George, of course. The lonely monkey decides to follow Ted all the way back to the city, where his mischievous tendencies get him into even more trouble. George nearly ruins everything for Ted but somehow the little feller eventually grows on him. How could he not? If I can borrow a line from Madagascar, little George is so cute, I just like to dunk him in my coffee.
When you're reading Curious George out loud to your kids, you don't get the impression The Man with the Yellow Hat is a good-natured but geeky fellow, gangly, clumsy and clueless about women. Thank goodness the film has Will Ferrell to clear it up for us! You basically know what you're in for once you recognize his voice, and his natural comic timing shines through, lending for some funnier moments ("OK, I'm looking directly into the sun. Staring right at it. I've got to be honest with you, it stings "). The other voices in the film also do a fine job, including Drew Barrymore, as a schoolteacher who has a crush on Ted; Eugene Levy as the mad museum scientist; Dick Van Dyke as the museum's old-time curator; and David Cross as his weasly, greedy son.
Based on the books and illustrations by Margret and H.A. Rey, Curious George embraces the essence of the timeless stories created 65 years ago. The film apparently took awhile to find its voice. Producer Ron Howard originally conceived it as live-action film but quickly realized they could never get a real monkey as cute and fuzzy as George. Then CGI was considered but ultimately, the filmmakers kept returning to the source: the late H.A. Rey's original, painstakingly beautiful illustrations. Thankfully, they stuck with that idea. Curious George is lush and vibrant with all of Rey's best efforts fully realized in Technicolor. And much like what the Piglet's Big Movie did with Carly Simon and The Wild Thornberrys with Paul Simon, Curious George is also sprinkled with original songs by hot pop singer Jack Johnson, to give it a modern feel. So what if the story gets a little overblown in parts, it will still introduce one of literature's most enduring icons to the young-un's--while allowing the adults to reminisce.
Hollywood.com rated this film 3 stars.