We were the first to shout about it: That's not Curious George in the big bright new cartoon movie that opens today, and nobody who's even remotely familiar with the books or stories will try and convince us that it’s Curious George up there on the screen, when Mom and Dad and kids and anyone for that matter who’s experienced the wonder of the books in the past sixty five years but has sat in movie theatres through The Grinch and Cat in The Hat and Chicken Little and Cheaper By The Dozen and Walk The Line and Charlie and The Chocolate Factory and Good Night (COMMA) and Good Luck and any other number of Hollywood bastardizations knows the original timeless classic has been altered for no good reason, and that the new little cartoon monkey is Curious George as much as the kid in Home Alone 3 and 4 is Macauley Culkin.
Anyway, the reviews are out, and a tip of the hat to the L.A. Times’ Carina Cochano, for taking the monkey by the ears:
The big difference between this monkey and H.A. and Margret Rey's? He's now conspicuously eyeballed. Millions of dollars later, George's coal-lump peepers are now black and white, thanks very much, because studio executives believe eyeballs make him more "accessible" to children. Everybody's opinion is special.
With his new eyeballs, and his abiding love for Ted, George is considerably more anthropomorphized than before. And with his cuddly new name, the "Man" is likewise less creepily anonymous. Overall, the film version feels warmer than the books, stressing the monkey's amour fou for Ted, that yellow-headed heartbreaker. What it lacks somewhat is that brainy celebration of la différence (between man and monkey, of course) that gave the books a wilder edge, a feeling that despite their affection for one another, George and the Man were essentially strangers. Eyeball-less, and ignorant of his friend's name, George was a primal force that the Man in the Yellow Hat could never quite control. No wonder the new line of products to be sold at Kmart and Target will be modeled on the new-look George, while higher-end stores will stick with the old, literary monkey.
The old George was an irrepressible id, a reminder of the fragile equilibrium (not to mention polite distance) between nature and civilization. The new one is a future plush toy.
The New York Times, meanwhile, blows off the movie in four paragraphs, with third-stringer Dana Stevens ignoring the discrepancies, being more concerned with expressing Upper East Side private school relief that the monkey is not voiced by Snoop Doggy Dogg:
In a refreshing departure from the animal heroes of most recent children's movies, Curious George — or "the monkey," as he's called for the first two-thirds of this new animated film — doesn't rap, punch out bad guys or emit rapid-fire commentary on pop culture.... With top-drawer voice talent including Joan Plowright and Dick Van Dyke, original songs by Jack Johnson, and old-fashioned two-dimensional animation that echoes the simple colors and shapes of the books, "Curious George" is an unexpected delight...
While we’re at it, that’s not Inspector Clouseau in-- aw, fageddaboutit...
And because he lied about Iraq and the "Liberty Tower" and N'Awlins: