Curious George
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Matthew O'Callaghan
scr Ken Kaufman
voices Will Ferrell, Drew Barrymore, Dick Van Dyke, David Cross, Eugene Levy, Joan Plowright, Frank Welker, Michael Chinyamurindi, Kath Soucie, Ed O'Ross, Michael Sorich, Clint Howard
release US 10.Feb.06,
UK 26.May.06
06/US Universal 1h26

Cute as a button: Ted, George and Maggie

ferrell barrymore vandyke

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Curious George Based on the classic series of children's books by Margret and HA Rey, this gently comical animated movie perfectly catches the tone of the adventure tales. It's a charming little film that shouldn't be left to children.

Ted (voiced by Ferrell) works at a Manhattan museum that's badly in need of something to draw in the crowds. His biggest fan is the flirty schoolteacher Maggie (Barrymore), who brings her class in every week. But that's not enough, so his boss (Van Dyke) sends him to Africa in search of a hidden temple. Alas, he can't find the temple, but he returns with an especially curious stowaway chimp (Welker) who causes all sorts of inventive but good-natured havoc. Meanwhile, the boss' son (Cross) is plotting to turn the museum into a car park.

It's hugely refreshing to see hand-drawn-style animation for a change--and the filmmakers keep the designs deceptively simple, while indulging in all sorts of inventive imagery. It looks terrific, and the characters are thoroughly engaging, voiced with loads of personality. Ferrell and Barrymore are especially good fun. George barely makes a sound, but gives the film a terrific energy--he's constantly entertained by the discoveries he makes in the world around him and the cheeky antics he gets up to. This gets under our skin in a surprisingly inspirational way.

The filmmakers wisely avoid the wink-wink "sophistication" of most animated films, instead opting for something genuinely childlike, but never childish. In this sense, they're required to actually be much more creative and original. It's also extremely cute and funny, with small references that will spark laughs from grown-ups as well as those of us who grew up with the books (such as how Ted got that yellow hat).

There's plenty of action--little adventures that cleverly cast New York City as an urban jungle. The filmmakers embrace the contrived premise and never apologise for the surreal escapades, and they also never overdo anything. It's silly and sweet and utterly beguiling--an enjoyable adventure about a man and his monkey.

cert U some suspense 18.May.06

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2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall