CURIOUS GEORGE (2006)
Featuring the voices of Drew Barrymore, Shane Baumel, David Cross, Will Ferrell, Hailey Noelle Johnson, Eugene Levy, Nadia Lewis, Ed O’Ross, Joan Plowright, Dick Van Dyke and Frank Welker.
Screenplay by Ken Kaufman.
Directed by Matthew O’Callaghan.
Distributed by Universal Pictures. 77 minutes. Rated G.
Between the sometimes overwhelmingly stuffed frames of anime and the still distractingly unrealistic look (particularly for human characters) of computer drawn films by the likes of Pixar, there is very little place in the world for nice, simply drawn old-fashioned animation. So it is nice that this movie – based on the classic children’s book series from the 1940s – does not try to be something it is not. They didn’t go for an explosion of lights and colors. They didn’t turn the characters of the story into lifeless looking automatons. Also, thankfully, they didn’t try to turn this into a live action film.
Curious George is wonderfully old-fashioned and that is its best selling point. It sticks to the spirit, if not necessarily the story, of the books. It tells the tall tale of an adorable, mischievous monkey. He is happy in his life in the jungle, playing with other animals, painting anything he can get his hands on, basically getting in trouble.
His life changes when he meets and befriends the Man in the Yellow Coat, a museum curator who has visited the jungle in search of a huge idol to take back to the his museum, hoping to save it from bankruptcy. He doesn’t find the curio, but he finds a companion, with George the monkey stowing away to return home with him.
While Ferrell’s natural hyperactivity sometimes strains at the corners of the character of the Man in the Yellow Coat (he even has a first name here – which is Ted), for the most part Ferrell reigns in his most annoying acting tics. Drew Barrymore’s voicework is even more charming.
Some of the parts in the middle when George first made it to the big city appeared to be a little too intense for several of the small children in the theater where I viewed it (including my three year-old nephew, who was very frightened by a gruff doorman who was looking for George because there were no pets allowed in the building.) However, for the most part these parts were short-lived, and all the “scary” characters eventually showed themselves to be okay. George the monkey is extremely cute (bordering on cutesy occasionally, but mostly staying in line) and kids will love him. Songs by surf-folk star Jack Johnson are both catchy and incredibly non-threatening (Johnson makes Cat Stevens look like a punk here).
Granted, Curious George is one of those films that really is for the kids. Parents will smile through much of it because it is keeping the kiddies happy, however there is little here they would see if not trying to keep their spawn in line. Curious George works perfectly well as a nice children’s film. That is all it really has to do. (2/06)
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2006 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: February 10, 2006.