I was never really into Curious George as a kid. So when his first cinematic release came out in theaters in 2006, I found myself not caring.
Flash forward a bit. My girlfriend, her brother, and I are at their house eating pizza. We have the TV on just for background noise, and suddenly, this little movie comes on. We keep it on, again, just for background noise, but as it goes on, we find ourselves paying more and more attention to it.
We were all very pleasantly surprised.
That’s right. Considering this movie is based on a series of children’s books that basically had no real plot, there was a surprising amount of entertainment value to it. I found myself honest-to-goodness laughing more than once. Yes, it really helped that I was in the company of people that I really like, but still. Curious George was really good.
It stars Will Ferrell as The Man in the Yellow Hat (named Ted in the movie), Drew Barrymore as Ted’s love interest, Maggie, Dick Van Dyke as the elderly museum owner/father figure, and David Cross as the antagonist. Eugene Levy shows up in there, too. That’s a great cast! Say what you want about Will Ferrell, the man is suited perfectly to cartoons (being a real-life cartoon character himself).
A bit of trivia: Will Ferrell and David Cross would later go on to co-star in Megamind, another awesome animated movie.
All that being said, there are definitely a few weird things to discuss.
The whole plot centers around Ted. Considering the movie is titled Curious George, the movie spends an awful lot of time with Ted and his problems. This is another case of the title character getting gypped on screentime (but it’s not nearly as bad as poor Zekrom).
Also considering the title of the movie, George is only referred to as George about six times in the whole movie, all within the last half hour or so. Ted does not call him George until a group of kids tell Ted to name him. Before that, George is simply referred to as ‘Monkey’ (which is a misnomer in and of itself. George is a chimpanzee, which is an ape, not a monkey. But I digress).
But honestly, neither of those are really problems. They’re just little oddities that bug me personally. To be perfectly honest, I can’t find any major problems with it.
Put simply, it was great fun to watch. There are a lot of silly lines, and many times, it actually feels like Will Ferrell is doing his iconic ad-libbing, which is not easy to do in an animated movie. So, either Will Ferrell is more of an improvisational genius than I first imagined, or the writers really knew how to write around that kind of stuff.
The animation is done really well, and the whole movie is really bright and colorful, as it should be, considering the source material. I know most kids’ movies go for bright and colorful, but Curious George really seemed to go all-out in making the movie look as vibrant as possible.
That’s the best still picture I could find, and it really doesn’t do it justice. There’s a lot going on, and in most cases, that would be distracting, but through the whole movie, no matter what kind of crazy shit is going on, the animators still managed to keep George and Ted as the center of our attention. That’s actually pretty impressive.
Don’t get me wrong, the movie is not perfect. There are a couple problems that need addressing.
Like I said earlier, the movie spends all of its time on Ted. That’s not inherently a problem, but again, it’s called Curious George. Most people don’t go into it wanting to see the movie dominated by The Man in the Yellow Hat. They want to see George being a cute, goofy, little monkey (ape). And though George is sufficiently adorable, I’m betting most kids (and adults) were saying, “When are we going to get back to George being a monkey?”. But if you go into it knowing that Ted is the main character and not George, you find that the movie holds up anyway.
The other problem I had was the antagonist’s motivation. David Cross plays Bloomsbury Jr., the son of the museum owner that Ted works for. And through the whole movie, he’s trying to sabotage Ted so that the museum goes out of business. He does this so that he can… build a parking lot? I think I got that right. And if so, Junior is either the most horrible person ever, or the writers don’t know how bad guys work. Sure, it gives Ted something to lose and a reason for all of the conflict, but the motivation itself is so bizarre, that I have a hard time buying it.
Still, the movie is targeted almost exclusively at small children. When that happens, the plot does become less important. And everything else does make up for it. Even though it is for small children, I never felt that it was talking down to them or even distracting them with loud music or any other kind of sensory overload. Like I said, the movie is very bright and colorful, but they still manage to keep George and Ted as the primary focus.
All in all, I had a great time watching it. And I imagine if a small child was present, it would have been even more enjoyable. Even though the plot is a little… squiffy. The excellent animation and casting allow it to take a backseat and make Curious George just plain good.