Curious George lacks the generation-crossing appeal of Shrek and Wallace and Gromit, but its pure innocence makes the film a mild success.
It Belongs in a Museum
Ted’s an overeager museum tour guide and class instructor, excitedly teaching the most mundane of topics, the story of his statuesque stage props, the cavemen Og and Grog, to a restless group of school kids. Ted asks the kids, as they sip away at their drink boxes, about the cavemen’s greatest contribution to mankind.
The replies are not surprising: Was it the Internet? A video game?
The kids’ lack of interest in something that happened so long ago is symptomatic of the Bloomsberry Museum’s biggest problem: attendance is down and the souvenirs are collecting dust on the gift shop’s shelves.
With dollar signs in his eyes, Mr. Bloomsberry’s virtually unwanted son is anxious to tear down the museum and turn it into a parking garage, one featuring high hourly rates and no daily maximum.
Scoffing at the very idea, and as one last-ditch effort to save his museum, Bloomsberry, Sr., decides it’s time to finally fulfill a lifelong dream and find the lost shrine of Zagawa, tucked away somewhere in Africa. An exhibit of the shrine would be a sure-fire bet to bring in the crowds.
Problem is, the elder Bloomsberry is too old for such adventurous pursuits. But, speaking before he thinks, Ted, a guy who doesn’t even ride the bus let alone trot the globe, volunteers to find the shrine and save the museum. In doing so, he becomes the legendary Man in Yellow who befriends a curious little monkey.
Curious George and the Lost Shrine of Zagawa
Such is the core storyline in Curious George, an amiable, colorful, and juvenile cinematic adventure for everybody’s favorite li’l monkey. While this one is clearly intended for the same age bracket that’s currently reading George’s books, the movie does offer a lot of subtle, witty moments (remember, “yellow is the new khaki”).
Fittingly, Curious George, the movie, is itself a bit of a curiosity in comparison to the current rage of overly hip and sassy CGI animated fare. It stays true to the innocence of its source materials (in homage, the freighter that takes Ted on his far-flung journey is called the H.A. Rey, after the monkey’s co-creator). In staying true to its source, the film largely refrains from over-modernizing the content with potty humor and other more adult-oriented flair that has become a hallmark of recent animated flicks. And, as for the animation itself, it’s simply drawn by hand. Oooh. Talk about going back to the days of Og and Grog! But, in doing so, the movie pays a nice tribute to Rey’s simple drawings that accompany the original storybooks.
George’s journey to the big screen was full of challenges and delays. As a testament to those hurdles, a fleet of 10 writers (not counting George’s creators, H.A. and Margret Rey) are given credit. That’s enough writers to call to mind that old joke about monkeys banging away at typewriters for thousands of years and coming up with… well, maybe something akin to this movie’s screenplay, which is indeed sloppy in parts.
Nonetheless, the voice talent, particularly Will Ferrell, as Ted, and Drew Barrymore, as Ted’s really hot love interest, sparkle. Ferrell, who’s been overexposed in too many movies too quickly, actually benefits from providing only voice work this time around.
As an added bonus, rising star Jack Johnson provides some nice songs to accompany the action. His work is a good fit that doesn’t overwhelm the movie as other superstars, such as Elton John, have been known to do in other animated endeavors.
Along the way, Ted and George learn some typically tender lessons, such as how everyone needs a friend, that it’s good to share, and that, yes, you should let your curiosity lead you.
While the end result certainly could have been a lot more, what finally made it to the screen is an agreeable enough concoction to bring back fond memories for those who have read George’s adventures in the past, and it will certainly not hurt George’s ability to gain new readers in the future.