Ted, (voice of Will Ferrell), is a curator at a museum in New York City and he really tries to get the students as excited about the museum as he is. The teacher, Maggie (voice of Drew Barrymore), is sweet on Ted but he doesn’t really get it. The museum is in financial trouble and the director’s son, BloomsburyJr. (voice of David Cross), wants to level it and make it a parking lot.
The director, an aging and kindly man who was once an adventurer, Mr. Bloomsbury (voice of Dick Van Dyke), really likes Ted and suggests that he go to Africa on a safari and bring back a fabled jungle idol that will attract paying patrons to the museum. And so Ted goes shopping for gear and really does become “The Man in the Yellow Hat” that we of a certain age remember so well from the original book by Margret and H.A. Rey published about 65 years ago (over 30 million copies have been printed in 17 languages and the book has never been out of print.)
Ted and his safari drive and hike deep into the jungle and come back, unbeknownst to Ted, with a cute little monkey that is very curious and gets them both into mischief in the big city.
Curious George is a sweet film with vivid animation and a great sound track (original songs and music by Jack Johnson) that is bigger than the movie itself. The animated art is not complex; it’s as if the animators had only to fill out coloring pages with the brightest colors they could find.
I tried to find a copy of the original “Curious George” yellow hard cover book that I remember from 1st grade, but I could only find the new book at the book store: a colorful largish-format paperback based-on-the-movie. It wasn’t quite the same, but then, the movie wasn’t made for my demographic and today’s kids will have to make their own nostalgia.
Curious George is directed by first-timer Matthew O’Callaghan who has considerable experience with feature animated films. George was produced by Ron Howard of Imagine Entertainment. Ron Howard has to be one of the finest, busiest, and not-appreciated-enough filmmakers in the business. The vocal cast is excellent. Joan Plowright is Miss Plushbottom whose apartment George manages to “brighten” shall we say; Eugene Levy is the voice of Clovis“whacky inventor”.
The narrative is direct and uncomplicated; there are no double entendres. The target audience is the very young; I would say four and up (I watched the film next to a three year-old, and her attention span was spotty.) This is not a family movie – it’s for little kids with themes about learning, being curious about the world as a good thing, art, father-son relationships (though this is little more than a plot ploy here.)
There are an astounding number of writers credited with the script – eleven. It has to be a record. Usually too many writers spoil the soup, but here their efforts yielded a story that parents of very young kids will be glad to take their children to see – just don’t expect The Incredibles.