“Curious George” is a kids’ movie, completely and unabashedly – and it should be applauded for that above all other things. There are no obscure references or sexual innuendos that will go over children’s heads. The most adult-oriented moment in the movie is when George’s image is projected onto the city, as he “climbs” the Empire State building and swats at airplanes, and a lot of kids probably learned the “King Kong” story over their winter break anyway.

Jess Cox
Awwwwwww, primates! (Courtesy of Universal)

And this is where a children’s movie should aim. It’s tiring to see “Shrek,” “Shark Tale” or even “Hoodwinked” swimming with so many mature pop-culture allusions that the children’s tale gets lost in the process. It’s refreshing to see “Curious George,” with its lush 2-D animation and touching tale of an almost father-son relationship, harkening back to classic Disney.

George, or Monkey as he is called the first half of the movie, meets the Man in the Yellow Hat (Will Ferrell, “Bewitched”), who is searching for a lost artifact that will save his museum. Though always finding some part of the jungle to divert him, George is obviously lonely, so when Ted (The Man in the Yellow Hat has a name!) shows interest in him, George follows him back to the city. Once there, George instigates the usual bouts of mayhem, upsetting the lives of everyone around him. But we soon find that the destruction he causes is for the best.

Populating the story are the many supporting characters that add new layers to George’s life. Dick Van Dyke, Drew Barrymore, Eugene Levy (“American Pie”) and David Cross (TV’s “Arrested Development”) all lend their voice talent to George’s world. Barrymore stands out as the cute teacher who flirts with the bumbling Ted. Cross is perfectly menacing as the villain who plots to sell the museum and build a parking lot in its place. Ferrell infuses Ted with a sense of wonder at every new adventure, helping him gain confidence and renew his passion for life.

And George is the reason for this change. The playful monkey is essentially a child figure – curious, who has trouble being understood (he doesn’t talk in this version) and makes easy mistakes. The filmmakers have transformed Ted from the perfect father figure in the books to a comic father/friend – a welcome change from the parental archetypes in many kids’ movies – that allows Ted to be human and sometimes overwhelmed with responsibility.

Though adding names and a more coherent plot, “Curious George” stays true to the tone and naivet

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