Review: Curious George Soundtrack - Jack Johnson

I've never been a big Jack Johnson fan. Didn't dislike him, but just found his folky-guitar-based music too... languid for my tastes. As a result, I didn't necessarily have high hopes for his work on the soundtrack to the movie Curious George.

I needn't have worried. The Curious George soundtrack is a solid album of (mostly) children's music that appealed to me and will appeal to the kids.

The songs most likely to be enjoyed by adults and kids simultaneously are the ones where the band shakes off its (to put a negative spin on it) lethargy and really gets moving. The "3 R's," which rewrites "3 Is A Magic Number" into a celebration of "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle," is a full-out jam that is destined to become a classic children's song recording. "Jungle Gym" and "Upside Down" are a couple other songs that move briskly and entertainingly. (The cover of the White Stripes' "We're Going To Be Friends," like the movie itself, polishes off the sharper edges of the source material. It's OK, but not revelatory.)

Johnson had to walk a fine line between entertaining his adult fans and engaging the young viewers and listeners. When Johnson throws his adult listeners under the bus to focus on the kids, he's written some great children's songs. "The 3R's" and "The Sharing Song" are superb examples of this. On other tracks such as "Upside Down" and "People Watching," Johnson neatly straddles that child/adult line with lyrics that can be read on multiple levels. (And, indeed, "Upside Down" is getting played on all kinds of different stations.)

Where the album fails slightly as an album is with the slower, more wistful tracks. "Wrong Turn" is a lovely song, and in the movie itself, it works quite nicely. But lyrics like "And I would like you to know / Although it seems sad to say / This was only the worst hour of my day" do seem a bit heavy for the youngest kids. A couple other tracks fall into this category.

Reading back on this review, the tone is a bit harsher than my overall feelings about the album. It's a good album with a few great kids' songs, and unless you dislike Jack Johnson's music, you're going to like this album. It's best for kids 3 through 7 and it's available darn near everywhere.

And as for your kids, well, if they're anything like my daughter, they'll say, upon first listen of the CD at home, "Hey, that's the Curious George music!" When I asked if she remembered it from the movie, she said, "No, we heard that at preschool!" I have a feeling her classroom isn't the only one with a copy...