Curiosity killed the cat?

“Curious George”Universal PicturesDirected by Matthew O’CallaghanWritten by Robert L. Baird and Dan GersonBased on the books by H.A. and Margret ReyStarring the voice talents of: Will Ferrell, Drew Barrymore, David Cross, Eugene Levy, Dick Van Dyke and Joan PlowrightOpens Friday, Feb. 10Rated G/97 minutesThree out of four stars

“Curious George” is the most huggable movie I’ve seen in a long time. You want to turn it over on its back and tickle its tummy, hopefully eliciting some adorable monkey laughter. Aw, and it’s got banana breath, too!

For those unfamiliar with the H.A. and Margret Rey storybooks (and how could you be, unless you were raised by a Nintendo?), Curious George is the world’s most curious animal-if he were a cat, he would surely be dead. George gets into trouble and The Man in the Yellow Hat (think safari crossed with the Gorton Fisherman) gets him out.

“Curious George” mixes simple cel animation with even simpler computer-animated backdrops, a style that evokes the spare, playful innocence of the books’ artwork. The icing on the cake is singer/songwriter Jack Johnson, who contributes songs that are lighter and fluffier than cotton candy in the wind.

This all adds up to a movie that’s impossible not to like, especially when George is so downright adorable. The voice actors are well-cast, too-Will Ferrell plays The Man in the Yellow Hat, Drew Barrymore plays his love interest and David Cross lends his inimitable talent to the voice of the museum director’s jealous son. In other words, the movie is stocked with actors as harmless and charming as the entire “George” enterprise.

The plot-something about a lost idol, a struggling museum and nesting in Central Park-is pure kids’ stuff, but that’s staying in the spirit of the books. Anything too complicated wouldn’t be at home in the universe of “Curious George,” a place in which I wouldn’t mind spending a day or two.

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