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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Curious George
Curious George
Universal // G // September 26, 2006
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Crichton | posted October 10, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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When I was a child, one of my proudest achievements was getting my very first library card. Having a grownup hand me a card with my name on it -- my name!! -- that allowed me to borrow books that weren't mine, had me floating on cloud nine. And when the card was in my hands, I promptly ran down to the kid's section of the library and grabbed two Curious George books. Since there were only seven different titles at the time, i'd borrow them so often that I could recite each one from memory. In fact, Curious George Goes To the Hospital helped assuage my fears about the hospital during my first overnight stay. So when I heard that they were making a feature film, I was (pardon the pun) curious. As an adult who now has his own children, i'd have to say the cinematic version of Curious George delivers on all levels. The animation, in my opinion, is top notch, the voice actors do a great job and the music is fantastic.

When the film begins, we're treated to a quick look at George's exploits in Africa, before heading to the city where "Ted" (aka The Man In the Yellow Hat - more on that later) (Will Ferrell) is trying to boost sagging attendance at the museum where he works. To do this, he tells the museum's owner, Mr. Bloomsberry (Dick Van Dyke), that he's going to head over to Africa to find the Lost Shrine Of Zagawa and bring the idol back to the museum. Unfortunately, the owner's son (David Cross) is intent on sabotaging Ted's efforts so he'll be free to turn the museum into a parking garage. While they're over in Africa, Ted befriends George, who ends up stowing away on Ted's boat back to the city. Ted spends the rest of the movie dealing with the precocious little monkey as he struggles to save the museum.

Like many Hollywood adaptations, the writers chose to deviate from the books by giving the Man In the Yellow Hat a first name - Ted - and a love interest, voiced by Drew Barrymore. They also show us exactly how the Man In the Yellow Hat got his yellow hat (along with the rest of his yellow outfit). I'm not sure why, but they also give "Ted" some of Ferrell's...well, "Ferrell"-isms. In the books, the Man In the Yellow Hat is essentially the parental figure, while George is, obviously, the curious child always needing to be rescued and learning a lesson before the final page. Onscreen, "Ted" bumbles around town, getting into almost as much trouble as George does. It's a minor quibble, and since i'm a fan of Ferrell's, it didn't bother me in the least - it was more of an observation, not a complaint.

Video: Curious George has a theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and the picture looks fantastic. The animation is bright and colorful with an intentionally slight softness to the picture. I didn't notice any grain, defects or compression issues.

Audio: We're offered three separate Dolby Digital 5.1 audio tracks - English, Spanish or French. The English track delivers clear dialogue and sound effects, as well as Jack Johnson's songs in my center speaker and fronts, while the back speakers didn't get that much of a workout. There's also an option to watch with English SDH (Subtitled for the deaf & hard-of-hearing), Spanish or French subtitles. Also, if you decide to listen to the end credits, do not adjust your stereo - the sound really does fades from the center speaker.

Bonus Features: In addition to the music video for Jack Johnson's "Upside Down", which you have the option to watch with subtitles to "sing-along", there are fifteen deleted scenes that run close to 17 minutes long. I was surprised to see that they weren't necessarily whole "sequences" - they were just occasional slight cuts and they also featured work by the original voice actors. Unfortunately, there are no behind-the-scenes featurettes about the animation process. The closest we get is during A Very Curious Car, which is a five minute featurette that has some creators talking about Curious George's world and how they fit a Volkswagon into it. There's also "Drawn" to George, a five minute clip instructing kids how to draw Curious George and Monkey In Motion, a two minute clip showing Jeff Johnson as he draws a scene with Curious George. That's it. Nothing else.

Universal rounds out the remainder of the bonus features with a bunch of games aimed at their target audience. In Banana Hunt: Help Hungry George Find Bananas, you have to count the number of bananas on the screen as a copyright for Dole fruit sits in the corner. Where's George? has you using your remote contol to choose the location where you think George is hiding - not that they give you any visual clues or anything. There's also a Virtual coloring book that lets you choose from four different characters, the Man In the Yellow Hat, Maggie, Professor Clovis or even George himself, and then select different colors for each of their items. The final game, The Ever Changing Colorful Chameleon, has you pick one of four different animals to see how the chameleon reacts. Rounding out the bonus features is some DVD-ROM content with more games and printable coloring sheets. Oh, there's also a one minute commercial for SheaHomes.


Conclusion: As i've mentioned in previous reviews, I am very selective when it comes to cartoons when it comes to my children. However, Curious George will find a place on my kid's shelf amongst the Looney Tunes, Muppet Show and Disney DVDs. While I wish there was some discussion about the animation process (it seems to be part 2D, part CGI), I do realize that i'm not the target audience - my kids are - and they both enjoyed it. This is a very entertaining, heartwarming 87 minute film and Universal delivers a bright, vibrant picture and a great 5.1 audio track. Highly Recommended.

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