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Review by Dustin Putman
2½ stars out of 4
Viewing 1999's "Stuart Little" for the first time since its release
three years ago disclosed how brutally harsh my original scathing
review was. The movie is often dreary, overlong, and more often lame
than not, but it does have its small charms. In returning the entire
lead cast members (both human and animal), director Rob Minkoff has
seemed to learn from several of his earlier mistakes and corrected
them. Running a perfect 78 minutes, "Stuart Little 2" is faster-paced,
more visually creative, and a whole lot funnier than its predecessor
ever was. The film isn't wholly ideal--its very existence smells of
desperate moneymaking schemes rather than out of necessity--but it
is clever and sweet-natured enough to entertain both children and adults alike.
Since the last time the Little family was visited, not much has changed.
Parents Eleanor (Geena Davis) and Fredrick (Hugh Laurie), biological
son George (Jonathan Lipnicki), and adopted mouse son Stuart (voiced
by Michael J. Fox) live in peaceful harmony, with the only addition
in the family being a new daughter, Martha (twins Anna and Ashley
Hoelck). With George getting new playmates of his own at school and
snubbing his rodent brother, Stuart unexpectedly finds a friend of
his own when wounded little bird Margalo (voiced by Melanie Griffith)
literally drops into his tiny car one day while being chased by a
vicious falcon (voiced by James Woods). As Stuart grows close to Margalo
and the family adopts her, what they don't know is that Margalo may
not be exactly who she seems.
Despite a premise that wavers on the wafer-thin side, "Stuart Little
2" is a gorgeous triumph of cinematography (by Steven B. Poster),
production design (by Bill Brzeski), and art direction (Shepherd Frankel),
painting the sights of New York City with a classy, shiny, fairy tale
sheen that suits the film beautifully. Meanwhile, the visual effects
are stunning and, in their own way, every bit as plauditable as those
in "Spider-Man" and "Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones."
Turning the animal characters into talking beings whose mouths move
with a convincing flawlessness must have been no easy feat, and the
work put into it is astounding.
The gently winning friendship between Stuart and Margalo is at the
heart of the film, and it is a bond between two different animals
who are very much alike that the original film lacked. Michael J.
Fox and Melanie Griffith do nice voice work bringing their characters
to life, and the moral decisions Margalo must face in order to be
true to herself and her feelings is genially orchestrated without
seeming cloying or preachy. The Little's family housecat, Snowbell,
is back too, and he steals the show with his witty feline repartee.
Nathan Lane aids significantly through his always on-target line delivery.
The human cast ultimately do not fare as well, nor do they have much
to do. Geena Davis (who hasn't made a non-"Stuart Little" picture
since 1996's "The Long Kiss Goodnight") continues to slum it in a
role that she is infinitely better than. Meanwhile, Hugh Laurie returns
as the understanding Little father, and Jonathan Lipnicki, as son
George, displays more charisma here, but less material to work with,
than in 2002's "Like Mike."
Unlike the original, "Stuart Little 2" wisely does not overstay its
welcome. Quick, painless, and undemanding, the film complaisantly
whisks right by and is over before you have had time to pick out its
varying missteps. Like a child's storybook, the Little's exists in
a world of wide-eyed optimism and "happily ever after" endings. There
is a refreshing absence of cynicism in "Stuart Little 2"--quite a
rarity, even in the family film market. Eventually, it wins you over.
Copyright © 2002 Dustin Putman