"Curious George" takes a backseat to Ferrell's Ted
A little mischievous monkey worked his way into the hearts of many, now he's worked his way onto the big screen as director Matthew O'Callaghan gives Curious George a new playground.
George has a backstory that begins in Africa along with the man in the yellow hat. However, the man in the yellow hat is no longer just the man in the yellow hat. He also has a backstory and turns out to be the star of the movie.
He is Ted (voiced by Will Ferrell), a timid and somewhat boring Bloomsberry Museum curator. He has a crush on Maggie (Drew Barrymore), a school teacher who drags her class to the museum each weekly, but he's too afraid to make a move.
The museum is dealing with financial problems, it needs a new exhibit or it will be forced to close. The aging Mr. Bloomsberry (Dick Van Dyke) is ready to throw in the towel and his son (David Cross) is ready to build a parking lot.
The Man in the Yellow Hat suggests a trip to Africa to find the Lost Shine of Zagawa -- a 40-foot idol of an ape. Although, when he first says it he can't believe the sentence came out of his mouth and he tries to play it off, to no avail.
This is where his yellow apparel comes into the picture. He decided to get outfitted for his safari trip and the store's salesmen say that "yellow is the new khaki." Granted, these salesmen were gangsters trying to pass themselves off as Australian and Ted is naïve.
The excursion to Africa isn't as successful as Ted would have hoped. The idol the group finds is miniscule rather than gigantic. In the jungle, the meeting between Ted and George -- only known as "monkey" until the movie is almost over -- is a case of mistaken identity: George thinks The Man in the Yellow Hat is a banana.
Heading back to the big city, Ted is crushed and his troubles only continue to grow. Mr. Bloomsberry started advertising for the exhibit on a large scale, George followed him home from Africa and if the museum closes he won't have a reason to see Maggie anymore. Ted has to face his troubles head on and actually take a stand for once. Whether he will buckle under the pressure and fail everyone is the question.
"Curious George" will have children going "ape" for the little monkey. Adults can reminisce about their experiences with the books while sharing in the fun. Look closely and you'll see the shout out George creator H.A. Rey gets from the movie's makers.
The feature film is animated the old-fashioned way; barely anything is created digitally. It's a nice throwback to the days when everything was drawn by hand -- which, face it, was only a few years ago -- but it's already becoming a dying art.
Famous celebrities voicing the characters doesn't pay off as much as it should have. It was hard to ignore the fact that Ferrell was The Man in the Yellow Hat. His voice is so recognizable that it was hard to sit back and watch the movie without thinking "Hey, that's Will Ferrell's voice." An unknown actor could have been a better choice, same with Barrymore's character. However, Cross as the villain of the story works well.
Musician Jack Johnson created original tunes for the movie's soundtrack and it was hard not to bop along to the jovial melodies.
"Curious George" opens everywhere Friday, Feb. 10.
Theaters and showtimes for Curious George (2006/I)
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