I watched Curious George this weekend and really enjoyed it. I felt it remained faithful to the spirit of the books, and this simplicity and innocence is very refreshing in a film for children. Lately, most large-budget animated features have had something for viewers of all ages. There have been plenty of references and in-jokes aimed at adults. While there’s nothing wrong with this, it can become wearying with so much information on different levels.

Curious George bucks this trend. It’s for children, and while adults are certainly welcome to enjoy it, there is nothing extra just for them. That I enjoyed it so much came as a bit of a surprised once I realised it was strictly a children’s film. I suppose I’d forgotten the differences between a ‘family film’ and one purpose-built for children. Roger Ebert, in his review of the film, says,

…it is a movie for small children and their parents or adult guardians, who will take them because they love them very much. Even if they love them very much, they will have to be very, very patient, so maybe waiting for the DVD is a good idea, except then, of course, you will have to experience it over and over and over and over and over again.

He’s right of course, but I felt no need for patience. It was a refreshing glimpse back at what most of us have forgotten childhood was like. I know I sometimes don’t much like being an adult, though I don’t have much choice about it.

The only thing I didn’t like about the film were the changes the filmmakers made to make it work as a film. We learn the man in the yellow hat is named Ted. Certainly it would be terribly awkward avoiding any mention of his name when he’s involved in conversations with people all through the story! But this is another problem. George is the star of the film, but Ted gets more screen time and one could argue that the film is really about how George comes into Ted’s life, makes a mess of it, and finally settles in comfortably. This is a departure from the books where the stories are not only about George, but also largely from his point of view (at least as far as I remember).

Not only does the man with the yellow hat play a much larger role in the guise of Ted, but he’s so different in the film, I have difficulty speaking of them as the same person. The man with the yellow hat served almost as a pseudo-parent to George, teaching him and helping him when he got into difficulties. Ted, on the other hand, is more a buffoon than George is! Ted is no better or worse than the man with the yellow hat, but they’re very different. Granted we learn very little of the man in the books, but I just can’t imagine he’s at all like Ted.

Reminding me of my adulthood throughout the film was the character of Maggie, voiced by Drew Barrymore. How such a sexy adult woman can convincingly act so vulnerable, endearing, and seemingly innocent is still a marvel to me.

Despite my complaints, it made for a very enjoyable 87 minute diversion. There was something magical about it I can’t really put my finger on.

Curious George marquee poster ©2006 Universal Studios