I’ve been curious about Curious George for quite a while but for some reason or other I have never bothered to look him up at the video store or Wikipedia, nor even tried to find him at the local zoo in the cartoon character enclosure. I have, however, kept an eye out for “Curious George and the Ebola Virus,” as famously mentioned in a Simpsons episode, but have had no success in finding it. Anyway, the other day I bumped into a DVD of a movie called Curious George 2 and since it was going cheap (which I admit is a weird noise for a monkey to be making) I decided to finally check out the chimp.
Turns out that George is child-monkey and a cute enough little fellow, especially in the face and especially when he is smiling in his child-like way, and he is, without a doubt, the primary reason to watch this otherwise not-too-interesting piece. He would, however, be cuter if he could talk. As it is, he is limited to the usual chimpanzee type sounds. These are quite pleasingly done and add a lot to the character’s cuteness, but there is only so much one can express without words. I am actually pretty sure at one point I heard George say the word “ok,” but as ape vocabularies go this is not at all impressive – the Australian parliament is full of monkeys with much larger vocabularies, some of them consisting of as many as 50 words.
While young George makes for a cool and charismatic lead, the human characters are pretty sucky. The main purveyor of this suckiness is George’s “dad,” a dunderhead sometimes called Ted but usually better known as The Man With The Yellow Hat, which is a bit of a misnomer – he really should be called The Man In The Yellow Everything as his entire outfit is yellow. In fact, so yellow is he, and so long and skinny, that at first I mistook him for a giant banana that George keeps around in case he gets peckish!
The villain of the piece is even worse, some wannabe crime-fighter, or the head of security at a theatre, or something. This irritating idiot is one Danno Wolfe a.k.a Security Guy a.k.a The Man in the Barrel. This atrocious and grossly irksome character spends most of the film chasing after George and his banana while making a total ass of himself. Interestingly, he is also a white male with a black female sidekick, and you know what that means. Yes, he’s an idiot and she’s a brain. Why both he and the black woman can’t both be dullards is a mystery that can be explained only by the politically correct. On top of that, the sidekick is herself very irritating in a “black” sort of way so I guess the writers made up for insulting men by insulting black people – how considerate of them.
But why are Stupid White Man and Stereotypical Black Woman pursuing our heroes? Well, as the title of this piece implies, in this movie the young star goes down a dark and sinister road by kidnapping an elephant called Kayla and taking her across state lines – I can only assume that the only reason he eventually avoids federal prosecution is because he is both a minor and a monkey. Our pachyderm-pilfering chimp’s intentions are good, of course, as the elephant is feeling homesick for her family back in a Cali wildlife park. Being a sensitive sort of simian, George decides to heed the time-worn edict of “Go west, young monkey – and don’t forget to take your elephant with you,” so he grabs the elephant and makes like a tramp by hopping an empty boxcar headed for California. And in what state does George start out anyway? I don’t think we ever find out, but it obviously isn’t California as catching a train from California to California makes no sense…
During this great train escape, George decides to take a nap using the pining pachyderm’s ear as a blanket. While this is endearingly cute, I couldn’t help but think that it is not only unsanitary but also dangerous and that it was only the absence of any sharp turns that saved the kiddies from being freaked out by the sight of George being turned into a stack of pancakes. And speaking of food, perhaps feeling that elephant-napping wasn’t achievement enough, during the train trip George also steals some fruit and a man’s hat! What kind of role model this is supposed to make him is beyond me, I can only assume that the makers of the film are trying to provoke a worldwide epidemic of children stealing fruit, hats and elephants. What the purpose of such a nefarious scheme could be completely escapes me, but the world has enough problems without a shortage of hats, fruits and elephants.
Somehow or other, Yellow Hat Man ends up in the boxcar with George and his guest. After some complaining about how difficult it is to raise a monkey these days, the man manages to escape from the boxcar. Alas, being a few bananas short of a bunch, after harassing some guy and stealing a bicycle ( now we know where George gets his bad habits from) he ends up back where he started, i.e. in the boxcar with no way out till he gets to California. Still, it could be worse – at least now he has plenty of fruit.
Other than the human characters, the only other thing I disliked about this movie was the songs. These mindless caterwaulings are bland and lifeless, with lyrics that have little to do with the movie – at one point I could have sworn the guy was singing something about Stonemasons being evil, or avocados giving him gas, or something. Still, maybe the kiddies like this kind of song, and it is, after all, a kids’ movie.
All works out well, of course. The magician who owns the elephant decides to buy her siblings from the wildlife park and to make them part of the act, thereby re-uniting the family. Why a magician needs even one elephant is a mystery, why he needs three is totally inexplicable. Anyway, the thing is quite enjoyable if you focus on George and fast forward the bits where the humans are acting like idiots. Maybe the TV series has more George and less humans – I’ll know when some more George DVDs I’m buying on eBay arrive in a week or two.