CURIOUS GEORGE (Matthew O'Callaghan). 78 minutes. Opens Friday (February 10). For venues and times, see Movie Listings. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Curious George captures the spirit of the beloved children's books on which it's based, resulting in the sweetest animated film you're likely to see this year.
This is essentially a backstory to H.A. and Margret Rey 's series about the mischievous primate. It raises questions like How did the Man with the Yellow Hat (voiced by Will Ferrell ) get his yellow hat? How did he meet the monkey? And how did the monkey get his name?
The answers come via a whimsical plot involving an amateur explorer's trip to Africa to find a lost idol and save a New York museum. There are subplots involving an eccentric scientist ( Eugene Levy ), a love interest ( Drew Barrymore ) and a scheming overlooked son ( David Cross , worth the price of admission).
But the film wisely centres on the growing bond between the two leads. George's innocent escapades, his grin and his squeaking sounds are adorable, and he eventually becomes a surrogate son to the somewhat directionless MWTYH. Yes, this is a comedy about an unlikely single dad.
The script has some glitches, and I could have done without Jack Johnson 's sensitive-guy songs. But unlike in a lot of animated features, in-jokes for jaded parents have been kept to a minimum. The couple of subtle visual puns refer appropriately enough to classic films involving animals like King Kong and Bringing Up Baby.
What's also surprising is the effectiveness of the old-fashioned 2-D animation, which uses primary colours, shadowing and simple lines to create an easy-on-the-eyes look that honours the original. (Watch for the breathtaking scene in Central Park that gorgeously captures a mythical New York.)
It's a look that's totally appropriate for a timeless story of a man and his friend.