*** (out of 5)
February 10, 2006
Will Ferrell as THE MAN IN THE YELLOW HAT
Drew Barrymore as MAGGIE
David Cross as BLOOMSBERRY JR.
Eugene Levy as CLOVIS
Frank Welker as CURIOUS GEORGE
Directed by: Matthew O’Callaghan
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
As a child, I was a huge fan of “Curious George.” Some of my earliest memories of books were those of the mischievous monkey. They’re still making books, credited as “In the style of H.A. Rey.” My kids love them as much as I did, and when they learned that Curious George was getting his own movie, they demanded to tag along.
They loved it. Being 4 1/2 and 2 1/2, they were the perfect age for this film. It’s easy for the kids to understand, and the bright colors and sharp animation kept their attention.
Much of the George character is preserved. I applaud the filmmakers for adding more meat to the Man in the Yellow Hat rather than George. The little monkey was always best as the curious little imp. He doesn’t talk (thank God!), and he’s not even the focus of the film. Rather, he’s along for the ride doing what he does best – getting himself and the Man in the Yellow Hat in trouble.
Yet I still don’t know where his tail went… But I digress.
Although “Curious George” is clearly marketed as a kids movie, it’s not for all kids. I wouldn’t take a group of fourth graders to see it, but the preschool crowd will love it.
The animation is pretty slick, I thought. I seem to be in the minority there, considering a lot of advanced previews of the film criticized it for poor animation. It’s not really poor – just different. It doesn’t look like a Disney film, and I found that to be a strength. Not that there’s anything wrong with Disney, but change can be nice now and then.
Also, it’s refreshing to see an ink-and-paint film again. In 2006, more CGI films are being released than ever before. Studios are looking at 3-D CGI as the wave of the future, figuring kids will get bored with the old-fashioned 2-D process. However, what really matters is what always matters in film – story, character and quality of the film itself.
“Curious George” isn’t exactly what you’d call a plot-heavy film. It has a story – the Man in the Yellow Hat is sent to Africa to find a priceless 40-foot statue in order to save his museum. Instead, he brings home a miniature version of it – and a curious little monkey.
Much of the film spotlights extraneous scenes that don’t impact the central plot. However, this is the way of the world when it comes to picture-book adaptations. Because the movie’s not exactly about George, you need this extraneous stuff to make the film work, and at least it’s entertaining. Compared to weak adaptations like “The Grinch” and cinematic atrocities like “The Cat in the Hat,” “Curious George” is pretty doggoned good.
I’m not going to lie to you. “Curious George” isn’t the greatest animated film to come down the pike, but it is very cute and it has a lot of heart.
The voice cast is well assembled. Will Farrell is very likable as the Man in the Yellow Hat. He’s not at all like the original character from the books, but the basic structure of the films necessitated something more out of the character than a cardboard Jack Hannah dressed up like a banana.
Drew Barrymore is pretty forgettable as Farrell’s love interest, but David Cross comes across well as the villainous son of the museum owner. Eugene Levy also has a nice part as a wacky inventor. Again, the characters aren’t anything you haven’t seen before in everything from “Richie Rich” to “Scooby Doo.” But it works for what it is.