Is there a man, woman or child out there who hasn't fallen in love with Margaret and H.A. Rey's furry little friend? The mischievous simian's misadventures have been a staple of children's bedtime stories for generations, largely thanks to their minimal setups—e.g., a monkey flies a kite—and maximum George-foolery. Matthew O'Callaghan's big-screen adaptation lets the naughty primate indulge in shenanigans (oh, not the paint cans!), as well as wisely duplicating the retro-simplicity of the books' artwork; the Day-Glo primary colors and quaint '50s Gotham concrete jungle appear as if they sprung right off the page.
This being a modern kids' film, however, certain concessions are made that are likely to grate on the nerves of anyone old enough to grow body hair. Maybe George going to the hospital wouldn't sustain a 77-minute film, but did the writers have to cram in a ho-hum narrative involving an ancient artifact and a foreclosing museum? Turning the Man in the Yellow Hat, now named Ted (Ferrell), into an absentminded professorial type is fine, but do we really need to hook him up with a saccharine romantic interest? And were the filmmakers obligated to fill the soundtrack with dull dorm-rock lullabies from Jack Johnson? When George causes trouble, the charm of the Reys' stories is evident; but the moment the monkey business makes way for the Disney-lite plot, even the kids will start getting restless. (Opens Fri; see Index for venues.)—David Fear