Title: Curious George
Screen format: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment
First theatrically released: February 10, 2006
DVD released: September 26, 2006
Director: Matthew O’ Callaghan
Starring: Will Ferrell, Drew Barrymore, David Cross, Eugene Levy, Dick Van Dyke, Joan Plowright
Sound Formats: English, French, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Length: 1 Hour 25 Minutes
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
Will Ferrell stars as Ted, the Man in the Yellow Hat, who unknowingly befriends George (“Voiced” by Frank Welker), a curious young monkey in Africa. Ferrell, usually known for his over the top antics, plays it very restrained here as second banana to the titular simian, and helps craft a very gentle and endearing buddy film. It is the classic recipe: monkey finds man, monkey trashes man’s apartment, man and monkey are thrown out, man and monkey live like bums on a park bench, man and monkey try to save science museum, monkey trashes museum, man rejects monkey, monkey gets captured and sent back to Africa, man goes to Africa to save monkey, monkey and man come back and save museum. Pretty typical really. Along the way Ted falls for beautiful young school teacher Maggie Dunlop (Barrymore), also in a very restrained and tender role. As a G movie, George’s exploits are suitably tame, and parents can safely bring all ages to see and enjoy this film. On the down side, parents expecting a kid’s movie that is fun for adults too, with “in jokes” and things that slide over kids heads (but the older folks get), well that just isn’t this movie. George is designed to be a safe, tender and fun movie, possibly to the detriment of the ‘curious’ angle he is tagged with, as he only gets curious/rowdy about three times in this film.
Sound Quality: 3.5/5
Featuring the music of Jack Johnson, the soundtrack of Curious George seems to echo the feelings of safety, comfort and fun more than the real ‘curious’ and adventurous side. The music is quite enjoyable; it just isn’t very energetic or varied. Surround effects are present, but neither they nor pumping bass should be expected as key features here. The lack of a real surround focus wouldn’t be so obvious if it wasn’t for the existence of the scene in Disney’s Tarzan where the ape tribe goes, well ape, wrecking the explorers’ camp and creating one of the most memorable surround examples in the process. There is no similar scene in CG that shows off his curiosity, neither his balloon ride nor his crash from the dinosaur are real sonic treats.
Visual Quality: 4/5
The animation style of Curious George is quite interesting. Combining CGI and hand drawn techniques, the original art direction of H. A. and Margaret Rey come through brilliantly. While a High Def transfer is almost certainly in the pipeline, this anamorphic widescreen edition captures all of the detail and artistry of the film in suitable detail. Unlike a Pixar creation, there isn’t vast content hidden among the details, so even an HD transfer is likely to reveal much more than what is seen here. There is virtually no Edge Enhancement or grain or errant dust and dirt, this is a very clean transfer. The one notable thing you can say about George is just how creative and artistic they were able to make this while still focusing on bright primary colors. By limiting the palette to simple and deep Yellows, Reds, and Greens they can obviously keep the attention of younger viewers all the longer, but the detail in the background, while not pertinent to the story or as interesting as what might be found in a Pixar film, is still beautifully rendered.
Extra Features: 3.5/5
George comes packed with about a half dozen different special features, tho the theatrical trailer any kind of behind the scenes featurettes are missing. For me, the best feature is a 15 minute drawing class that shows you how to draw George’s face, which I will definitely be trying to recreate since I cannot draw a straight line. The most exciting feature is 15 deleted scenes, until you find out that most of them are still at the pencil drawn or storyboarded level of completeness. For the kids there are 10+ interactive games they can try out (which I skipped). There is also the Jack Johnson video with sing along enabled or disabled, a short demo on how George is brought to motion, and a ‘Monkey around with Words’ language builder.
Overall: 3.5/5 (not an average)
When it comes to kid’s movies, there is a dearth of releases these days that parents can truly feel good about their children viewing. Curious George tries to fit that mold, being a safe and fun little adventure, with classy songs and obvious loving artistic craftsmanship. For parents, this might mean the film isn’t really as exciting for THEM that other recent kids films try to be, but it is what it is, and really nails that vibe. Curious George is an excellent, safe, movie for young viewers, one that parents will appreciate for simply being fun without being over the top.