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CURIOUS GEORGE
U.S. Release Date: February 10, 2006
Distributor: Universal
Producer: Brian Grazer, Ron Howard
Composer: Heitor Pereira
Cast: Will Ferrell (Voice), Drew Barrymore (Voice)
Running Time: 1 hour and 26 minutes
MPAA Rating: G

Animation Works, Ferrell Doesn't in Kids' Adaptation
by Scott Holleran

Universal Pictures' Curious George, based on the brightly illustrated children's books by Margret and H.A. Rey, is innocuous, slow and far from perfect. But, despite being saddled with too many writers and the crude and mediocre Will Ferrell, director Matthew O'Callaghan manages to convey the title character's inquisitive essence.

The primary colored movie begins with a piece of Jack Johnson's music, a breezy blend of friendly guitar pop. The song introduces the Crayola brown monkey known as Curious George, a clever little squeaker who clowns around the jungle causing more trouble than a bee in a bonnet.

Cut away to New York City, where a teacher (voiced by Drew Barrymore) dutifully brings her class to see the cavernous exhibits at a natural history museum run by a geezer (Dick Van Dyke). In spite of the regular patronage, the museum suffers from poor attendance, and the old man's son wants to turn the place into a more profitable parking lot while his protégé (Ferrell) pleads for another way.

That other way—exploiting an ancient jungle ruin to attract visitors—transforms the squirrelly Ferrell character into the books' Man in the Yellow Hat. Where the movie's tone is eminently respectful of George's childlike desire to know, the Ferrell character's antics nearly kill curiosity at every turn, down to the yellow hat, which is kicked around in the muck of modern jokiness.

Ferrell's Man in the Yellow Hat heads for the jungle to retrieve the idol, stumbles upon cute George instead, and, with the museum gearing up for the big exhibit's grand opening and the teacher waiting with open arms, the stage is set for some monkey business in the big city.

Visually appealing and true to the storybook style, with busy streets, colorful balloons and a zoo, the adorable monkey in Manhattan nets the movie's most enjoyable moments, with curiously parentless George causing chaos wherever he goes—only because he needs parental guidance and love, not a bad message. With a perfectly rendered—and, wisely, wordless—monkey that comes right off the books' pages, Curious George works when indulging his sense of discovery.

Ferrell's neurotic jokes intrude upon the fun and drag the thin plot to a crawl, but the music, classic animation and the monkey's yearning to know—and be loved—are sufficiently irresistible.

Buy on DVD
DVD Notes
An attractive package aimed at preschoolers awaits fans of Curious George on a single-disc DVD. With 15 deleted scenes—one of eight extras—that use both early sketches with full-color animation, the slip-covered box offers more of the same appealing monkey business. The cuts are smart; director Matthew O'Callaghan decided to strive for more charm and less of Ferrell's jokes.

Most bonus bits are narrated by a pleasant female voice. Features include tools for basic arithmetic, English—a short activity uses things from the movie as words in a sentence—and a chameleon color-changing game. Animator Jeff Johnson appears on two extras in art instruction and his step-by-step tutorial for drawing George's face is fun for the whole family. Promotional plugs are provided to Volkswagen, Dole Foods and Shea Homes and Jack Johnson's opening-closing song, "Upside Down," is included here in music video format, with an option for sing-along style.


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