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Universal Studios Home Video presents
Curious George (2006)

"There's no stopping curiosity."
- Jack Johnson, from George's anthemic theme song

Review By: Jon Danziger  
Published: September 26, 2006

Stars: Will Ferrell, Drew Barrymore, David Cross, Eugene Levy, Dick Van Dyke, Joan Plowright
Director: Matthew O'Callaghan

MPAA Rating: G
Run Time: 01h:27m:17s
Release Date: September 26, 2006
UPC: 025192615924
Genre: animation


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- B+BA- B-

DVD Review

One of the terrors of parenthood, I'm here to tell you, is revisiting the stuff you loved so much from your own childhood, or having the popular culture revisit them en masse. The first obvious fear is that they're going to screw it up, take something that meant so much to you as a kid and botch it; but the deeper anxiety comes from the suspicion that what you thought was so terrific when you were 8 will wither and die seen through the prism of your adult experience. But no worries here, friends, for everybody's favorite little monkey has come into the 21st century with his curiosity and charm and good nature absolutely intact.

The feature is based of course on the beloved books by Margret and H.A. Rey, and here we even get a new version of George's founding myth. The focus is squarely on Ted, who works at the Bloomsberry Museum of Natural History, and it's only some enterprising haberdashers pulling off a sartorial fast one who turn Ted into the Man in the Yellow Hat. Ted loves his work, but they're not packing them in at the museum, which, sadly, will have to shutter its doors and get plowed under for a parking lot. Mr. Bloomsberry loves Ted and the museum that bears his name, but his son is the principal engineer of this hateful little scheme. Perhaps there's something Ted can do to turn the tide?

Ted ventures to Africa in search of the lost idol of Zagawa, fulfilling a mission that Bloomsberry started as a much younger man; alas, the idol is the size of a paperweight, and won't provide the S.R.O. crowds the museum needs. But Ted comes home, unwittingly, with another and more significant souvenir: a monkey in the jungle so cottons to playing hide-and-seek with Ted that he stows away on the ship back to the States.

Said monkey is of course our friend Curious George, and he's continually up to no good in the big city. He wreaks havoc on Ted, on the museum, on the big town in general; he's mischievous but he's not wicked, though, and has about him the air of an inquisitive toddler rather than a primate wrecking crew. He's wisely made mute—no talking George, thank you—but his attachment to Ted is unmistakable, and principally this is a tale of a man and his monkey. Will Ferrell gives voice to Ted, and he's charming; he gets a love interest in Drew Barrymore, an elementary school teacher who takes her class on weekly trips to the Bloomsberry less for the exhibits and more to get some face time with Ted, the oblivious man of her dreams. Barrymore is fine, but her character doesn't get and doesn't merit a whole lot of screen time.

What's especially endearing about the film is its animation style, with big brash colors borrowed from the Rey drawings, turning urban America into a Crayola-inspired wonderland. Obviously this is no primer on curatorial practices at America's museums or on the political dispute over native artifacts—Ted rather abruptly plucks the cherished idol from Africa to no protest, for instance, but a PC reading of Curious George would be only for the most doctrinaire and humorless. Best of all may be the inspired soundtrack by Jack Johnson, which captures George's sense of investigation and Ted's big-city cool and sense of possibility, and banishes all the saccharine, Raffiesque drivel that dominates so much children's music these days. The soundtrack alone makes this one a keeper, but the movie more than lives up to its part of the bargain.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The colors were fantastically saturated on the film's theatrical release, and unfortunately it's not quite as visually splendid here; it looks a bit too dulled down and monochromatic.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
English, Spanish, Frenchyes


Audio Transfer Review: George's every mewl and giggle is given the full Dolby treatment, and Johnson's music never overwhelms the story.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish, French with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Curious George TV show, Barbie in The 12 Daring Princesses, PollyWorld
15 Deleted Scenes
5 Featurette(s)
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. four games
Extras Review: Some nice but unspectacular extras. Jack Johnson shows up in a music video for Upside Down, joined by George, his muse, and you can watch it with or without subtitles for a sing-along. A package (16m:47s) of fifteen deleted scenes is little more than story scraps, but is worth looking at because the animation is in various stages of completion, and it's a nice window into the process. Animator Jeff Johnson is "Drawn" to George (05m:09s), and it's a sketching lesson so you can be too; he's also on hand for Monkey in Motion (01m:48s), to get the little fella to move.

Monkey Around with Words (04m:45s) is a silly little glossary of some of George's favorites, like "hat," "animals," and "bananas." A Very Curious Car (04m:46s) is partly a look at the film's production design, with director Matthew O'Callaghan, among others, and partly a straight-up plug for the VW Beetle. (Similarly, an ad for condo builder SheaHomes doubles as a plea for parents to read with their kids.)

You can join George for four pretty elementary games, like Where's George? and Banana Hunt; not a lot of skill is required, and the principal lesson your kids will learn will be about working the DVD remote. And if you've got a PC and not a Mac, you can check out the DVD-ROM content, which includes, among other things, a virtual coloring book.

Extras Grade: B-

 

Final Comments

A worthy new incarnation of a childhood favorite, with respect for our favorite primate's pedigree, a terrific visual style, and a rockin' soundtrack to go with. Good monkey!

 


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