Curious George passed the first, most important hurdle in my household – the two and a half-year-old test. My boy got a kick out of the venerable childrens' book creation in his first big-screen adventure, and this gentle, amiable 'toon is just witty enough for adults to enjoy too.
Like a lot of folks, I grew up reading Hans Augusto and Margret Rey's adventures of the silly monkey, whose endless inquisitiveness gets him into a series of jams in titles like Curious George Takes A Job and Curious George Goes To The Hospital. The stories are basic – George does something goofy, and his keeper/friend, The Man In The Yellow Hat, gets him out of it. Lessons are learned. You know the drill. It's a formula, but it works.
I was kind of worried when I learned Curious George and the yellow-hatted man were being revived for a new big-budget animated feature. Would it feature "hip-hop" George and endless pop-culture riffs and fart jokes like too many other recent 'toons? Would George (heresy!) actually talk in the movie?
I needn't have fretted. With mild liberties aside, Curious George the movie is faithful to the source material. Its lovingly hand-drawn animation is a refreshing change from the onslaught of plastic-looking computer-generated cartoons. It's got a bright, colorful look, with a retro-yet-modern design that could take place anytime between now and 50 years ago.
Funnyman Will Ferrell voices the man in the yellow hat, who actually gets a name (Ted) and a personality for this movie. Instead of the gently paternal non-entity of the books, this yellow-hatted man is a neurotic goofball who gets himself in trouble nearly as much as George does. In the movie, museum employee Ted leads a bumbling expedition to Africa, and brings back George as a stowaway. Many hi-jinks ensue as Ted tries to keep his museum job, George explores the bustling New York City, and Ted learns to grow up and face his fears a bit.