Tuesday, February 07, 2006

I am Curious (George)*

This is George.

George is a good little monkey, and always very curious.

George's curious adventures have been chronicled in many books. In my house, those books are the most beat-up, broken spined, page-ripped of all the children's books. Because they have been taken to bed, on airplanes, on road trips, hidden under pillows, and just about anything else that kids could do to them.

Pretty much loved to death.

So when the opportunity to go to a sneak preview of the "Curious George" movie came around, my kids would have killed me had I not taken them. Interestingly enough, their 13-year-old nephew also wanted to tag along. Some of the George books were once his.** Luckily for him, he could tag along with my kids (ostensibly to keep them company) to see the movie.

It was an opportunity well-taken.

George, in this version, is the cutest, funniest, scootchie-wootchiest li'l ape ever. Director Matthew O'Callahan obviously went to great pains to make him so. This chimp makes the Snuggle Bear look like a Hell's Angel at Altamont. Seriously, there's barely a moment when he's on camera that you don't just want to reach out and snog him. If I had any spare cash, I'd sink it into the stock of whatever company's going to be peddling the licensed George plushes.

Anyhow, the movie opens with a perfectly choreographed ode to ADD by George in the jungle, as he bops around to a sparkly Jack Johnson soundtrack, entertaining the young animals and vexing the parents, until all the kids go home, and George is left with nothing to do.

Meanwhile, there's this guy in NYC named Ted, who is a curator in this musty mid-level museum that is frequented only by the class of doe-eyed schoolmarm Maggie, who wants to snog a bit with Ted but the kids are as subpremely bored with Ted as you are with me right now.

Seriously, the non-George stuff is just traditional boilerplate, and only exists because Hollywood thinks we all need a traditional narrative and backstory to understand anything, even a tale as well-known as this. Dick Van Dyke, David Cross, and Drew Barrymore are employed in these roles because they have 'household' names. None of them are given much to do.

Neither, for that matter is Will Ferrell used all that effectively.*** Maybe the producers figured using actors well-known for their prowess in physical comedy would somehow make the non-George physical comedy scenes more palatable.

Ummm...no they don't.

Luckily, these scenes are kept to a minimum. Suffice to say, the nebbish Ted gets 'volunteered' to go to Africa on a mission to save the museum, and just as inadvertently, becomes The Man in the Yellow Hat (one phrase: "Yellow is the new khaki!"), and off to the Dark Continent we go, where he looks for a statue, but instead finds George.

For those who aren't familiar with the H.A. Rey story, The Man in the Yellow Hat meets George, and lets him play with his yellow hat, with which he uses to trap (and some say kidnap) George. In this version, George takes the hat to play peek-a-boo with, and won't give the hat back. When the Man heads back to the States, George stows away on the ship (the H.A. Rey, nice touch), and follows The Man back to his apartment.

Does any of this matter? Probably not. Suffice to say there's plenty of gentle, fun adventures, gorgeously drawn, with rich, glowing colors, and spendid animation. This may be a 2-D, hand-drawn framework, but it's obvious that there was some 3-D modeling done as reference.

And a world about that Jack Johnson soundtrack: meh. To me it all sounds exactly like every other song ol' Bubble Toes has written.

In the end, the best thing I can say about Curious George is that whenever I wondered if it was a good movie, I just had to look down the aisle, and see a seven, nine, and 13-year-old, each of them looking wide-eyed, and smiling.

And just as snogable as George.


*with apologies to Vilgot Sjöman
**Or at least spent some time at his house. The actual property rights of kids stuff is in relatively perpetual dispute in the clan. Usually, by the time ownership is established, the item in question is the wrong size and/or age inappropriate, and has moved on to yet another household.
***I'm betting that at least once, the director said to him: "You know what you did with Ron Burgundy? I want the exact opposite."


Blogger mal said...

I loved those books as a kid! Our daughters never had much exposure to them for some reason. I am going to have to hog tie the OH and drag em a long to see it when it hits locally

Thanks for the preview *S*

8:31 PM  
Blogger Guy Wonders said...

There's definitely a new career available for you writing reviews of kid movies for adults . . .

10:18 PM  
Blogger Jessica said...

The worn books were always the best.

9:41 PM  
Blogger Notsocranky Yankee said...

We have some of the books from when I was young. My kids think they're great!

Thanks for the great movie review. I'm sure my kids will want to see it!

10:00 PM  
Blogger United We Lay said...

Very funny.

10:38 AM  
Blogger Rowena said...

since when do Americans use the term "snog" eh? Methinks you've been reading too many Brit and Aussie blogs!

Anyway, happy Valentine's Day BP. And a big snog for you x

7:38 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home