Directed by: Mathew O’Callaghan
Screenplay by: Ken Kaufman
Cast: Will Ferrell, Dick Van Dyke, Drew Barrymore, David Cross, Eugene Levy
The brilliance behind a book adaptation which is also a cartoon is genius. The illustrations in the book are drawn, so it only makes sense that the most accurate way to translate it to film would be to use the medium which allows for this to stay the same. The animation in Curious George seems to go out of its way to look as much like the books as possible, even when that means the animation is not cutting edge. There are no jaw-dropping visuals in Curious George, and yet it still manages to put me in a state of amazement.
Adapted from Margret and H.A. Rey’s classic children’s books, Curious George follows the adventures of the Man in the Yellow Hat, and his small monkey friend, George. The film attempts to apply somewhat of a storyline within these adventures, by adding a villain and an ultimate goal for the Man in the Yellow Hat, who is voiced by Will Ferrell. The Man in the Yellow Hat works at a museum, but it is in danger of being closed down. In order to save the museum so it won’t be turned into a parking lot by a mogul voiced by David Cross, he travels into the jungle to find a giant ancient relic. He comes back with a tiny relic, but along the way he also found himself a pet monkey. When George finds himself in the big city, he discovers that there are plenty of discoveries to be made.
What makes George such a delightful character is the fact that he is not at all mischievous. He is simply curious, and although this may get him into all sorts of trouble, each turn is just another discovery for him, and he remains happy no matter what. Luckily this cheerful character never speaks and ruins the magic, but he is illustrated to have all sorts of great expressions to help us follow his journey.
The film often takes short detours for George to be curious, and during these moments the film bounces along cheerfully to the melodic tunes of Jack Johnson. There are entire sequences with no dialogue, and the music starts up. These moments made the film for me. It wasn’t about the plot, just like there was no real plot in the books. It was simply about a cheerful little monkey having adventures, and the music fits so well that the film becomes unbelievably joyful. It is perhaps the most cheerful film that I have ever seen.
Ferrell has his own share of fun improvising lines as the Man in the Yellow Hat, but it never overpowers the magic of the film. The simple animation focuses more on light than anything else, and each scene is simply beautiful, while also very practical. As a fan of the books, I recognized each situation, and also missed the ones which were left out. I can only hope that there is room to make another film. That is one sequel that I would truly look forward to watching.