Curious George is a delightful book and a delightful movie. That the two don't match up very well is a testament to changing times I think, and not because the creators of the movie didn't care about preserving the original. But before I get into that I will review the movie as it stands on its own.
The "man with the yellow hat" (nicely voiced by Will Farrel) is a museum docent who cares passionately about his work and wants to communicate his love of history and the natural world to a disinterested city. It seems that the museum is failing financially, and destined to soon become a parking lot unless he and the owner can come up with a grand new attraction to bring in the money. So the man with the yellow hat buys the latest in adventure clothing and sets out to Africa on a mission to find a gigantic idol for their exhibit. He finds George instead (a very good little monkey, but extremely curious). George stows away on the ship headed back to America, and there he creates a lot of mischief and fun. The man with the yellow hat is at a loss about what to do with his new little friend, but soon learns to appreciate the little monkey and learns from his insatiable curiosity to stop worrying and enjoying life more.
We are Curious George fans (my household includes a 4 and 7-year old to whom I have read these books many times before bed). I thought the movie was sweet and innocent, done in a simpler animation style with soft washes of bright color that stayed fairly true to the feeling of the illustrations from the books. This entranced my four year old: the seven year old was bored, as I might have expected. After all, the books were meant more for the pre-K ages.
Speaking of innocence, you might have guessed from my summary that the movie took HUGE liberties with the plot. In its defense, imagine movie audiences of today reacting to some guy showing up in Africa, dropping a monkey into a sack and hauling him off to America to live in his house largely unsupervised. Then imagine that the monkey accidentally dials the Fire Department, which shows up and arrests him for false alarm, taking him to a prison infested with rats. When the books were written what, 50 years ago? this may have seemed more plausible. Not today, by a long shot! So you see how there had to be a major rewrite for this to work as a movie in 2006.
I thought this was a fun film to see with your 2-5 year old child, but perhaps too simple for older kids unless they are rabid Curious George fans to begin with. We will probably rent or buy the DVD when it becomes available later this year.
-Andrea, aka Merribelle