Curious George has been loved by generations of readers since Margret and H.A. Rey first put the inquisitive little fellow in print in 1941. Children who listened in rapt attention as their parents read to them, grew up to read Curious George to their children.

George and The Man in the Yellow Hat (voiced by Will Ferrell)

George and The Man in the Yellow Hat (voiced by Will Ferrell)

Margret Rey once said, "I know what I liked as a child, and I don't do any book that I, as a child, wouldn't have liked." She and her husband understood the child's sense of wonder, and that's why their books are still beloved. There's nothing cynical or jaded about George. He's just a loveable little monkey whose curiosity leads him into lots of good-natured adventures.

Similarly, this is a loveable little movie with its own share of good-natured adventures—and it's one of those rarities that can truly be called a "children's movie." There's no winking Shrek-ish or Madagascar-esque humor (no flatulent mud baths, thank you), no pop-culture references aimed squarely at the parents. This is a completely sweet and innocent film crafted just for the kids—much as the Reys wrote their beloved books.

The mischievous monkey is wide-eyed and, of course, curious about everything

The mischievous monkey is wide-eyed and, of course, curious about everything

"George can do what kids can't do," Margret Rey once said. "He can paint a room from the inside. He can hang from a kite in the sky. He can let the animals out of their pens on the farm. He can do all these naughty things that kids would like to do."

The filmmakers, for the most part, do justice to the Reys' whimsical vision—not only thematically, but visually. The original books featured basic four-color printing, and the movie, which is free of computer graphics, replicates the soft watercolor look that is so much a part of the picture books.

Maggie (voiced by Drew Barrymore) has her eye on The Man with the Yellow Hat and his cute little friend

Maggie (voiced by Drew Barrymore) has her eye on The Man with the Yellow Hat and his cute little friend

The opening sequences are among the film's best, in both visuals and story. We see George swinging from trees and getting himself into good-natured mischief with the animals of the jungle. We then learn how he meets The Man With the Yellow Hat—who is actually given a name here: Ted. (voiced by Will Ferrell). Ted and George end up back in the big city, where the adventures continue—thanks, of course, to George's incessant curiosity.

Meanwhile, Ted has a love interest—schoolteacher Maggie (charmingly voiced by Drew Barrymore), who brings her class to the museum so she can be near Ted. Young children may grow a bit restless with all the dialogue, anxious to see more tree-swinging and kite flying. They want to see Curious George be curious.

Adventurer-turned-museum curator Mr. Bloomsberry (voiced by Dick Van Dyke)

Adventurer-turned-museum curator Mr. Bloomsberry (voiced by Dick Van Dyke)

The only weak spot in the film is the plot line where Ted must go to the African jungle to swipe a gigantic statue for his museum-owner boss. If one were to take the film too seriously (which no one should), that subplot is a bit politically incorrect—reminiscent of the nineteenth century explorers who hauled chunks of ancient Greece and Egypt to England, looting the cultural heritages of those ancient nations. But the four-year-olds in the audience aren't worried about the problems of Egypt and the British Museum.

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Curious George delivers just what it promises. It's a great kids' film, with the usual spinoff merchandise for children. But while profits are certainly a goal of any studio, that's not this film's ultimate aim. Its goal is to provide a vehicle for a beloved character—and will hopefully send parents scurrying to the bookstore for the genuine article.

Talk About It

Discussion starters
  1. Monkeys are obviously made to live in the jungle. Where was George the happiest—in the jungle or in the city? Why?

  2. Should The Man in the Yellow Hat have taken him out of the jungle? Should he have returned George to the jungle?

  3. What does it mean to be curious? When is curiosity a good thing? When can it get you into trouble? How can you tell the difference between "good" curious and "bad" curious?

  4. Talk about a time when your curiosity got you in trouble. Talk about a time when it had a good result.

The Family Corner

For parents to consider

There is nothing remotely offensive or frightening about this G-rated film, a sweet and innocent movie made just for children. Unlike many other animated family films, though, it's worth noting that because of that childlike sweetness, it probably won't hold much appeal to kids over the age of

What Other Critics Are Saying
compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet

from Film Forum, 02/16/06

Curious George, Margaret and H.A. Rey's beloved children's tale about a mischievous monkey and the man who captured him, has been adapted for the big screen without turning the story into an age-inappropriate disaster stuffed full of pop-culture references. Critics are assuring parents that their young children will be thoroughly entertained.

Christian film critics seem pleased.

Tom Neven (Plugged In) says the movie is "true to the spirit" of the books: "Even the animation style hints at the illustrations in those classic books. There are plenty of laughs for young children and a few inside jokes for adults, too. … Overall, the story is one of innocent fun—remember, George is an animal, not a disobedient child—and slapstick shenanigans." But he says parents "will definitely want to discuss the flick's cavalier attitude toward lying lest kids absorb a bit of ethical monkey business."

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Frederica Matthewes-Green, a Christian film critic writing for The National Review, points out a shift in the fundamental message of Curious George, and notes that "it's a real sign of the times." What's changed? "In the books, George's curiosity leads to fun, but often, also to trouble; sometimes it's serious trouble. Reading about him allowed children to imagine wild adventures, but also learn lessons about safety. … George is repeatedly described as sad, frightened, very unhappy, and scared at the consequences of his curiosity. … In the books, George learns a lesson. In the movie, it's the Man with the Yellow Hat who learns the lesson: he learns that it is a good thing to be curious."

Whatever the film's lesson, Lisa Rice (Crosswalk) is satisfied. "There's hardly a better way to release the child within than to let him or her see this tender adaptation of a favorite children's classic book series this winter. Curious George is a 10 on the Adorable Scale with its precious, well-crafted story and its integrity in staying true to the warm characters created by author H.A. Rey."

Greg Wright (Hollywood Jesus) says, "The MPAA ought to come up with a rating that's even 'safer' than G—something the cinematic equivalent of Gerber's 1st Foods. If they did, Curious George would be a good candidate for the first film to be so classified. … For toddlers, Curious George does offer children a first, pure, movie-house opportunity to experience the joy of the happy ending. And that's both entertainment and spirituality enough for the cinematic equivalent of Gerber's 1st Foods."

Mainstream critics seem to be enjoying this monkey business.

from Film Forum, 02/23/06

Andrew Coffin (World) says, "Curious George is delightfully age-appropriate and free from strained stabs at hipness. … Where George stumbles, though, is in falling prey to the seemingly unavoidable temptation of modern children's films to smarten-up adolescent protagonists while dumbing-down the adults."

Curious George
Our Rating
3 Stars - Good
Average Rating
(not rated yet)ADD YOURSHelp
Mpaa Rating
Directed By
Matthew O'Callaghan
Run Time
1 hour 27 minutes
Will Ferrell, Drew Barrymore, Eugene Levy
Theatre Release
February 10, 2006 by Universal Studios
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