The famous story book character gets a chance to monkey around on the big screen.
Here's a story, so familiar, most of us will be able to say, " I read the book before seeing the movie." If you are one of the few who has not, you would be wise to do so before settling down for an hour and a half of antics with George and the Man In The Yellow Hat -- that way you'll know what you are getting into.
Animated in the same simplistic style as the books, the film uses its generous allotment of time to fill us in on how The Man In The Yellow Hat (voiced by Will Ferrell) began his relationship with the primate. Without revealing all of the surprises, I can mention Ted (yes, now he has a name) and how he works at a museum as a popular guide for children's groups. However, his idyllic world isn't without problems because the curator of the collection (voiced by Dick Van Dyke) is struggling to keep pace with rising expenses.
Desperate to find a solution, Ted proposes they search for an amazing new exhibit. Fortunately his employer was once an adventurer, and recounts a safari from years earlier where he came close to finding an ancient monument. With his superior's notebook detailing the journey, the man in his new yellow hat sets off for the jungles of Africa. However, thanks to some meddling from his boss's son Junior (voiced by David Cross), who is convinced a parking lot would be much more lucrative than a museum, Ted has a difficult time finding what he came for. Instead, he discovers the character this movie's audience has paid their dollars to see.
Introducing George to New York creates all of the expected consequences. Ted lives in a "no pets" apartment building, and the hyper monkey is soon repainting his neighbor's flat in grade school designs--pretty remarkable for a monkey, yet the characters in this film aren't impressed. A trip to the zoo results in Ted and George floating over the city while tethered to helium balloons, and it turns out George is very adept at causing traffic congestion.
All this larking about happens at a leisurely pace, punctuated with musical selections that may leave adults pushing up their eyelids. But keep the snoring down, because the eight-and-under crowd is likely to be held in rapt attention (the film effectively captured a few hundred children's interests at the screening I attended).
Thankfully, even with names like Will Ferrell, Eugene Levy, and Drew Barrymore in the voice cast, Curious George always stays true to its audience. Content concerns are very minimal, with only some mild anger expressed by a couple of people, an incident where a man is accidentally shot by a tranquilizer dart, and moments when the little creature's curiosity puts him in peril. Almost as rare as a pet chimpanzee, this charming children's film is a good choice for youngsters -- with likely the added bonus of making little tikes curious enough to read more about this monkey and his owner when they get home from the theater.