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May 12, 2006 |

By Miscellaneous | Film | May 12, 2006 |

I do not like to exercise. First, it hurts. Second, it cuts into my mealtimes. Third, it hurts. It is, in a word, torture. But my gym is right next door to my local cineplex, so it seemed like a good idea to do the dreaded workout and then slip into the early show of Curious George. So I had three hours of torture yesterday. This movie is so dull that I fell asleep five times. Five times. And I wasn’t the only one; most of the parents leaving the theater were busy wiping the dried drool off their faces as well.

Ah, Christ, now I gotta give you a plot outline, huh? OK: Contrived conflict leads The Man in the Yellow Hat — here called “Ted,” for whatever reason — to the jungle in contrived, fruitless search for a huge stone idol that will save his museum from the owner’s son’s contrived, nefarious plot to turn it into a parking lot. Ted meets George, who follows him and stows away on the ship back to The City. Hijinks ensue. Nefarious museum-owner’s son’s plot ultimately fails; museum is saved for the children (for the children!); George and Ted and Drew live happily ever after; the end.

George is adorable — you can’t really go wrong with a curious baby monkey. But, though he can paint vivid, accurate landscapes and portraits, he can’t talk. The talking is left to the humans. Ted (Will Ferrell, in charming mode) serves as hapless straight man to the wee chimp, and Dick Van Dyke, David Cross, and Joan Plowright deliver serviceable performances, but it’s beyond me why they had to throw in Drew Barrymore to voice lines that could have been uttered with equal dexterity by any actress who’s done a TV commercial.

The animation is beautiful and successfully captures the style of H.A. Rey’s illustrations in the Curious George books. Also a “success”: faithfully recreating the benign simplicity of the books’ appeal to very young children. Very young children.

And what of the children? Well, to give credit where it’s due, the under-four set were delighted with their filmgoing experience. They giggled where appropriate and cooed when cued. As for the rest of the Short People, let me put it this way: I had no idea that nowadays the average six-year-old can use “that sucked” in the appropriate context.

Full disclosure: I am the mother of a six-year-old boy. I see virtually every kids’ movie released in theaters and the straight-to-video ones. My kid opted not to see Curious George. That should have been my first clue. But I had to see it in order to write this review. You’re welcome.

Parents, take your very young children and they will receive it with the mild enjoyment generally experienced on ingestion of a piece of ripe fruit. Take your elder children and prepare to suffer the tortures of the damned. Actually, prepare for the suffering regardless, but at least if you have young children, you can take a nap assured that they, at least, will have a good time.

My son had a ball at The Pink Panther, a family film far more pleasurable for me as a parent and an audience member. But I sure would like back those 84 minutes I spent at Curious George.

Maryscott O’Connor reviews children’s movies for Pajiba and publishes the liberal weblog My Left Wing. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and six-year-old son.

Curious George / Maryscott O'Connor

Film | May 12, 2006 |

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