Of all the holiday-themed movies, books and TV shows out there, Halloween and Christmas are perhaps the most fertile breeding grounds for memorable, entertaining stories. I've got a particular fondness for the former...and not just the occasional horror marathon, but the animated and kiddie fare I enjoyed growing up. My three year-old daughter will probably enjoy The Great Pumpkin soon enough, while spookier stuff like Garfield's Holiday Adventure is probably several years away at this point. Until then, she's stuck with Curious George: A Halloween Spook Fest, a new direct-to-DVD animated movie starring everyone's favorite mischievous monkey. Lightweight, entertaining and just spooky enough to intrigue younger kids without scarring them for years, it's a fun way to welcome in the holiday.
Our story revolves around the legend of "No Noggin", a headless scarecrow that appears on Halloween to kick the hats off unsuspecting passers-by. Curious George is intrigued by this legend: though it scares him a little, he ultimately hopes the story is true. He sets out to investigate, talking to folks like the great-great-grandnephew of a local farmer who supposedly created the scarecrow from his old clothes and a perfect-fitting (and eventually stolen) pumpkin head. An old photo even suggests that the original resting place of No Noggin lies right on the property of George and his owner, The Man with the Yellow Hat. George also enjoys regular Halloween stuff like making a perfect costume, helping his friend win a "Giant Pumpkin" contest and getting ready for the local Boo Festival. Will No Noggin show up to kick off hats, terrorizing locals with headless fury? Probably not, but there's a little bit of mystery here that feels appropriate enough for this mildly spooky Halloween adventure.
It's all in good fun, and my daughter and the rest of the family enjoyed this short, 56-minute film for the most part. It sags a bit in the middle and the resolution is a little undercooked, but the terrific voice work, leisurely pace, lively music breaks and attractively simple artwork definitely help to smooth things over. Universal presents this all-new holiday special on DVD, treating us with a solid A/V presentation but tricking anyone hoping for bonus features or other additional content.
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Not much to complain about here. This 480p, 1.78:1 transfer offers a pleasing, colorful image with good detail, consistent black levels and virtually no digital imperfections. There's a pleasing texture to many backgrounds and landscapes, as well as no signs of excessive DNR or other digital eyesores. I did notice some mild banding and several stray jagged edges...but they're almost expected with animated releases, whether released on DVD or Blu-ray. Overall, this is a fine effort that kids of all ages should appreciate.
DISCLAIMER: These screen captures are strictly decorative and do not represent this release's native 480p resolution.
The audio is definitely a bit more reserved, though it's not necessarily a problem. This Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation offers crisp dialogue, robust music cues and even a bit of channel separation on occasion. Surrounds are limited to music cues and light background ambiance, though a little more power in this area would've made the spookier moments more enjoyable. For what it is, though, I doubt many kids or parents are going to complain. Optional English SDH subtitles are also included during the main feature.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen above, the menu interface offers smooth navigation and thankfully, the pre-show ads and warning screens are easily bypassed. The 56-minute show is divided into eight chapters. This one-disc release is housed in an appropriately orange keepcase; no slipcover, inserts or bonus features are included. Boo!
Fun, lightweight and harmless, A Halloween Boo Fest is a nice addition to the growing empire of Curious George movies, episodes and books. Though not destined to be a holiday classic, the accessible story, enjoyable music and moderately spooky atmosphere will entertain younger audiences without irritating parents in the process. Universal's DVD is similarly light, serving up a fine A/V presentation but nothing in the way of supplements. Newcomers to the franchise should rent it first, while fans of the mischievous monkey should add the low-priced Boo Fest to their regular Halloween DVD rotation. Recommended.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs and writing in third person.