Movie Review: Curious George
by Jim Pappas
Published: February 11, 2006
Strictly for the young, as in 5-8 year olds, “Curious George” is a well directed cartoon feature film that is short on having any kind of adult appeal, but long on sweetness and good nature.
I don’t have any children, so it is rare that I actually watch a film made specifically with them in mind. I admit I had a hard time sitting through “Curious George”, but the kids attending the screening I went to seemed to have had a good time and cheered at the right place near the end of the movie. I found it to be too simplistic and bereft of any kind of real message, other than maybe being addicted to playing “peek-a-boo” might lead you into adventures that could ultimately be bad for your health. Actually, saying it didn’t have a message isn’t really fair. It does have a message, one that promotes kindness and love for one another, and that is certainly a good message for all of us.
I was pleased with the direction by Matthew O’Callaghan and the animation was very much more than adequate in the sense that it was visually satisfying, given the nature of the story and what this film is really all about. There were well placed overhead shots, and interior scenes that could have been taken right out of a live action feature. I was thinking afterwards how well the animation sequences could have looked if they’d been re-shot using live actors and sets.
Based on the “Curious George” series of books, first introduced in 1941 and written by Hans A. Rey and his wife Margaret, the film features an excellent cast of voice actors, including Will Ferrell as Ted (the man in the yellow hat), Drew Barrymore as his love interest, Maggie, and Dick Van Dyke as museum owner and Ted’s employer, Mr. Bloomsberry. What transpires in the film concerns an attempt by Ted and Mr. Bloomsberry to save their museum from being turned into a parking structure by Bloomsberry’s son, Junior (voice of David Cross).
Bloomsberry manages to bundle Ted onto a boat and off to Africa, with the goal of finding a giant shrine ("The Lost Shrine of Zagawa”), that when displayed by the museum would draw in enough paying visitors to enable Bloomsberry to keep the museum operational. While in Africa, Ted encounters a young monkey (our hero, Curious George), who attaches himself to Ted and ends up coming back to America with him.
As those who’ve read the books know, George is a perpetual motion machine with insatiable curiosity, and he finds joy in just about everything around him. His sweet and kind nature, however, manages to deflect any anger that those he encounter experience due to his lack of restraint. George isn’t really the central character in the film named after him, as Ted is the protagonist here, but it is George who manages to create an impressive amount of big city havoc that makes the film better than it could have been. The scenes that take place in the city are inspired animation, proving that one can do a lot with what these days seems to be less. It isn’t necessarily technical wizardry that makes good animation; it is the direction and visual depiction of the concept that makes good animation, and the animators here know what they’re doing.
Ted, George, and balloons get acquainted in Universal
Pictures' "Curious George."
It is hard to praise the writing for a simplistic story told for children, but Ken Kaufman’s screenplay manages not to insult the intelligence of the viewer, and the story by Kaufman and Mike Werb is logical, flows quickly and takes itself just seriously enough to make the film something children will want to watch over and over again.
“Curious George” features the music of Jack Johnson, whose soft acoustic sound compliments the film. Johnson’s work here will undoubtedly be a boost for his career as some of the songs are quite memorable.