There are many animated films out there that aren't made to be complex or emotionally deep but rather there to be entertaining to audiences. I've seen many films over the years that attempt this and one of those films is "Curious George". Based on the famous children's books from 2006 by Margaret and H.A. Rey, this film was one I can easily call simple and yet cute at the same time. It's not exactly a film that had the emotional complexity of Pixar's films or the comedy of DreamWorks' films, but yet it still works due to how it stays faithful to the spirit of the books while adding a sense of charm to it. I found this quite fun to watch.
In the big city, a tour guide at the Bloomsberry Museum named Ted (Will Ferrell) is dismayed to discover that the museum he works for might be closed for good. Despite being visited by teacher Maggie Dunlop (Drew Berrymore) and her students, Mr. Bloomsberry (Dick Van Dyke) informs Ted that the museum attendance has been down for a while and isn't pulling in enough money to stay afloat. While Bloomsberry's son Junior (David Cross) proposes tearing down the museum and making it a parking lot, Ted suggests getting the Lost Shrine of Zagawa from Africa to get museum attendance up. Suited up in yellow for Africa, Ted comes across a monkey named George (Frank Welker), whose curiosity often leads him to trouble. After Ted discovers to his dismay that the idol he's looking for is not forty feet tall as fabled but rather three inches, he returns to the big city only to find that George has followed him there. Hoping to save the museum, Ted has to figure out what to do with the tiny idol while keeping George under control.
When the film came out in 2006, film critics at the time gave it lukewarm reviews. They felt that compared to other animated films that came out before it, this film wasn't as strong. It did seem silly in retrospect as I believe that Matthew O'Callaghan and his crew weren't set to make a film deep or groundbreaking but rather sweet and charming and I feel they accomplished that here. The story does adhere very well to the books while adding necessary changes that make it suitable for film. The original books in general mainly focus on George getting into mischief thanks to his curiosity with very little plot within them. While the museum plot isn't the strongest out there, I still feel it works well that keeps the story interesting and likable. It reminded me a lot of Disney's "Winnie the Pooh" adaptations whose stories made up with a lot of charm and pleasure. I also feel that the humor in the movie as well is very good. It's not the laugh out loud kind of humor, but rather the kind you chuckle at every once in a while which I think is the perfect kind of humor for the film. As far as the animation goes, it's easily the best part of the film. I'm always a sucker for great traditional animation and this film easily does the trick and I got to applaud producer Ron Howard for taking a chance and making the film using the medium. At the time the film came out, traditional animation was at an all-time low. Hollywood executives were unwisely convinced that people only saw animated movies made using computer animation and believed that audiences thought traditional animation was outdated. That was far from the truth as in reality, the computer-animated films were much better because the traditional animated films coming out at the time didn't have nearly interesting stories and looked bad. Howard's choice to make the film using classic animation like this rather than a live-action/CG hybrid I feel was such a bold and wise choice in retrospect as this is a film that lives to be animated. It also helps that the film benefits from the brilliant work of character designer Shannon Tindle and production designer Yarrow Cheney whose work enhances the illustrations and gives it a timeless quality. It also helps that many Disney animators animated the film as well. I wasn't a huge fan of how most of the props and sets of the film were mostly CGI though. I didn't mind it for some of the more complicated shots where the camera did complicated moves, but having some of the simple props being CG just didn't work for me. It could've had more handpainted backgrounds and hand-drawn props. As far as the characters go, I really like all of them and I love the voice cast of this film. All of the voice actors give this film their all and treat the subject seriously which I greatly admire. I was worried about Will Ferrell's performance as Ted (The Man in the Yellow Hat) as it was a role that seemed so different for him compared to his manic roles in later animated films like "Megamind" and "The Lego Movie", but he works perfectly playing a straight man character here and he gives Ted the sense of clumsiness and passion that the character needed. I also thought Maggie and Bloomsbury were also fun with Barrymore and Van Dyke clearly having a lot of fun here. The one character I really thought was fun though was Junior. David Cross clearly had so much fun playing a villain in this film and his comedy and voice work perfectly for a spoiled son who's concerned more about making money than saving his museum. It may seem cliche and basic on paper, but I feel Cross pulled it off. Another element of the film I really loved was the songs written by Jack Johnson. Much like the songs in "Tarzan" written by Phil Collins, the music here basically soundtracks the film and they're all catchy, laid back, and simply led to a fun time.
Which is what I can perfectly describe "Curious George". A fun time. The story isn't huge, but it's charming and likable enough, the animation is fantastic through the use of CG backgrounds and props got tiresome after a while, and the characters were all fun and had great voice performances. This is the perfect film to watch for something to cheer you up and make you smile as well as a great film to watch with the kids. If you're curious enough, give it a watch. It may not be as amazing or groundbreaking as other animated films, but I think it's a film I recommend seeing.