×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Curious George

It's not just the animation that's two-dimensional in "Curious George." Rudimentary on every level, this long-gestating Universal pic based on the children's character is pitched toward the youngest of kids with direct-to-video quality animation, plotting and backgrounds.

With:
Voices: Ted, the Man With the Yellow Hat - Will Ferrell Maggie - Drew Barrymore Bloomsberry Jr. - David Cross Clovis - Eugene Levy Bloomsberry - Dick Van Dyke George -Frank Welker

It’s not just the animation that’s two-dimensional in “Curious George.” Rudimentary on every level, this long-gestating Universal pic based on the children’s character is pitched toward the youngest of kids — roughly ages zygote to 4 — with direct-to-video quality animation, plotting and backgrounds. Nothing wrong with that per se, except there’s zero here to divert adults, making its 86 minutes feel dangerously close to a hostage situation. The appetite for even mediocre G-rated fare suggests there’s a market for this (see “Chicken Little”), but “George” is much better suited to home viewing, allowing parents to seek refuge elsewhere.

Faced with a film replete with original songs by Jack Johnson featuring “Sesame Street”-style lyrics, even patient parents will likely be bored to death. (At the premiere screening, the host of a TV entertainment magazine show actually took a cellphone call during the movie, and he probably wasn’t alone.)

For those unfamiliar with the 1940s character created by Margret and H.A. Rey, the troublemaking monkey has received a few modern updates. For instance, there’s now an actual name for the little simian’s human pal (Ted) known strictly as “the man with the yellow hat” in the books.

The modestly constructed story has Ted (voiced by Will Ferrell) embarking on a jungle expedition to bring back a massive idol that will save the natural history museum where he’s employed. Barring such a coup for his employer, Bloomsberry (Dick Van Dyke), the site will be closed and transformed into a parking lot by Bloomsberry’s needy son Junior (David Cross, whose animated likeness is his spitting image).

So Ted heads to Africa, where he encounters a playful monkey who he eventually names George. As voiced by Frank Welker, the vocalizations are somewhere between a cooing baby and a poor chimp impersonation.

Stowing away in Ted’s ship, George follows him back to civilization, where Ted’s failure to find the sought-after artifact (thanks to sabotage by Junior) leaves the threat of closure dangling over the museum. Along the way, Ted receives support from Maggie (Drew Barrymore), a teacher whose frequent class trips have more to do with an interest in him than her students.

There’s not much more to it than that, with various chases through the city (one tethered to balloons) all set to those droning songs. And while the cartoonish renderings are in keeping with images of the well-known character, as directed by Matthew O’Callaghan, who cut his creative teeth at Disney, there’s simply no magic or sparkle in either the actual or asphalt jungles that George inhabits.

That said, the youngest of kids should be able to sit through the movie dutifully — especially at home, where at least they’re treated to lots of primary colors.

Popular on Variety

Curious George

Production: A Universal release of a Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment presentation of a David Kirschner-Jon Shapiro production. Produced by Ron Howard, Kirschner, Shapiro. Executive producers, Bonne Radford, Ken Tsumura, James Whitaker, David Bernardi. Directed by Matthew O'Callaghan. Screenplay, Ken Kaufman; story by Kaufman, Mike Werb, based on the books by Margret and H.A. Rey.

Crew: (Technicolor); editor, Julie Rogers; music, Heitor Pereira; original songs, Jack Johnson; executive music producers, Hans Zimmer, Kathy Nelson; production designer, Yarrow Cheney; sound (DTS/SDDS/Dolby Digital), Cheryl Murphy; supervising sound editors, Gregory King, Darren King; lead character design, Shannon Tindle; lead animators, D. Brewster, Anthony DeRosa, Jeffrey P. Johnson, John Pomeroy, Stevan Wahl, Frans Vischer; line producer, Mary Alice Drumm; casting, Mary Hidalgo. Reviewed at ArcLight Cinerama Dome, Los Angeles, Jan. 28, 2006. MPAA Rating: G. Running time: 86 MIN.

With: Voices: Ted, the Man With the Yellow Hat - Will Ferrell Maggie - Drew Barrymore Bloomsberry Jr. - David Cross Clovis - Eugene Levy Bloomsberry - Dick Van Dyke George -Frank Welker

More Film

  • Renee Zellweger Rufus Wainwright Sam Smith

    Renée Zellweger: Judy Garland Was 'My Childhood Hero'

    Awards buzz is building around Renée Zellweger for her performance as Judy Garland, emerging as a frontrunner in the Oscar race for best actress. But for her, the real prize was paying tribute to Garland, of whom she’s been a lifelong fan. “Nobody was prettier, nobody sang prettier…the adventures she had, [she was] my childhood [...]

  • Topic Studios

    Layoffs Hit Topic Studios as TV Division Relocates to West Coast (EXCLUSIVE)

    A small round of layoffs has hit Topic Studios this week in the television division, insiders familiar with the company told Variety. One of the insiders said three executives at the New York-based producer and distributor are out: senior vice president of scripted programming and Viacom alum Lisa Leingang, vice president of development Mona Panchal [...]

  • 'Downton Abbey' Music Gets 'Bigger, Better,

    As 'Downton Abbey' Hits the Silver Screen, the Music, Too, Gets 'Bigger, Better, Grander'

    When “Downton Abbey” fans hear that familiar strings-and-piano theme, a Pavlovian response ensues: Get to the television immediately, because you don’t want to miss a minute of the addictive Crawley family melodrama to follow. This week, with the “Downton Abbey” movie reaching theaters on Friday, fans can’t wait for their fix of Lady Mary and [...]

  • 45 Seconds of Laughter

    Film Review: '45 Seconds of Laughter'

    “Everyone is worth more than their worst act,” said Roman Catholic sister and anti-death penalty advocate Helen Prejean, and it’s with these words that “45 Seconds of Laughter” closes. It’s an apt sentiment on which to leave Tim Robbins’ sincerely felt documentary study of the therapeutic acting workshops run by his own theater company in [...]

  • Julie Andrews

    Julie Andrews Selected for AFI's Life Achievement Award

    The American Film Institute Board of Trustees has selected Julie Andrews as the recipient of the 48th AFI Life Achievement Award. The award will be presented to Andrews on April 25 in Los Angeles. The ceremony will be telecast on TNT. “Julie Andrews is practically perfect in every way,” said Kathleen Kennedy, chair of the [...]

  • 4127_D001_00007_RC Phyllis Logan stars as Mrs.

    'Downton Abbey' to Dominate Box Office Weekend With $30 Million

    The feature film version of “Downton Abbey” is heading for an impressive $30 million opening weekend at 3,079 sites for an easy victory at the North American box office, early estimates showed Friday. The launch of Brad Pitt’s space drama “Ad Astra” will land in second with about $20 million, while Sylvester Stallone’s action-thriller “Rambo: [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content