REVIEW: Curious George [G]
DVD Release Date: September 26, 2006
Director: Matthew O’Callaghan
Starring: Will Ferrell, Frank Welker, Drew Barrymore, David Cross, Dick Van Dyke
A kid’s film with little-to-no adult humor offered – using a more traditional style of animation rather than the seemingly industry standard methods of CGI – successful in today’s society? Impossible! With Pixar/Disney and Dreamworks releasing some of the film industries best animated comedic and family films over the past decade, and predominantly going the CGI direction in those films, the thought of a feature-length film based on a 65-year-old children’s book series of a monkey whose only means of communication are action and expression seems like a sure-fire miss, an idea that may have gone over well in the early 90s but is destined to fail in this new age of entertainment. However, with Curious George, the formula, unfamiliar to this generation, works surprisingly well.
While the character designs have been modified from the popular Curious George book series, both George (voiced by Frank Welker, The Ant Bully) and “The Man With The Yellow Hat,” finally given a name in Ted (Voiced by Will Ferrell, Elf), sustain a familiarity that works well in the transition from storybook to feature film. The story is beautifully told, with the truly heartwarming moments coming nearly every time George is featured. The film’s opening scene has George wandering around the jungle making friends with the other young animals residing in the wild who are just as playful as he is, only to have their parents scold him time and again, leaving him lonesome and in need of a friend. The endearing curiosity and sincerity that is characterized with the wondrous monkey allows for him to be instantly likable.
Ted, an archaeologist who seeks to save the museum at which he works from being closed due to a growing lack of interest in cultural artifacts. In a desperate attempt, he ventures to Africa in search of the Lost Shrine of Zagawa, an ancient idol that would ensure a boost in museum attendance. It is there that he first makes George’s acquaintance, and it is on the ship that was used to transport the artifact that George infiltrates and uses to reunite with Ted, making his way to New York City in the process.
George’s ability to help Ted find comfort in joy and laughter ultimately allows for the two unlikely companions to become best friends who equally need each other. Innocent at heart, the simplicity of the film makes for a joyous adventure for lifelong fans of the popular series, both young and old. While it is likely to be considered by many as purely a children’s film, Curious George is a safe choice for parents looking for kid-friendly entertainment as well as being a reminder to those who can remember a time when comfort was found in childhood outlets as the heartwarming charm displayed here is universal, capable of winning over anyone.
Perhaps we could all use a little reminder of a familiar innocence that has simply been lost due to the saddened realization of a much more difficult world that inevitably comes with growing up. Perhaps there is beauty in the irony that a Curious George film, remaining true to the roots of the character, can successfully exist in an entertainment world that seems more focused on mirroring realism through dramatizations than distributing the types of feel-good stories needed to instill the much sought-after hope for humanity. Perhaps Curious George will become a film that shall stand the test of time and offer a sense of the lost innocence of generations past in hopes of rekindling the fading hopes of magic and that nearly extinct childhood innocence that was once so cherished. Perhaps that is a bit of a stretch, but then again, who would have thought that such a film would exist in 2006?
· The majority of the special features are directed towards the younger audiences, with over ten interactive games and activities for kids to partake in. Among the other notable features for children are the Jack Johnson “Upside Down” music video, with available “sing-along” option, “‘Drawn’ to George,” a feature that teaches kids to draw Curious George, and “Monkey Around With Words,” which focuses on commonly used words relevant to the Curious George world.
· “A Very Curious Car” is a featurette where the film’s creators discuss the different techniques they decided to take in making the movie and how they went about creating the environments with which George would curiously interact with. “Monkey In Motion” is another featurette which shows how the artists made George “come alive.”
· There are 15 Deleted Scenes which are a collection of rough sketches mixed with actual scenes form the film, showing how certain scenes were originally to occur. Unfortunately many of these cut scenes were rather effective and would have added to the film.
– Christopher Griffin