This is the happiest moment of my life... I feel ten inches tall!
Based on the best-selling children's book by the late E.B. White (who also penned "Charlotte's Web"), "Stuart Little" is the latest family entertainment offering this holiday season, a fairy tale about the misadventures of a mouse who learns the meaning of family. And though it lacks the insight and spunk of "Toy Story 2", "Stuart Little" still offers enough bang for the buck for those in search of some holiday spirit and an undemanding cinematic experience.
I'm not really sure if I want a little brother.
How about a friend?
I guess I could always use a friend.
This fanciful tale begins in a New York orphanage, where Mr. and Mrs. Little (Hugh Laurie of "The Man in the Iron Mask" and Geena Davis of "The Long Kiss Goodnight") are interested in adopting a little brother for their son George (Jonathan Lipnicki of "Jerry Maguire"). Unfortunately, all the children of the orphanage are older than their son, which causes a bit of a quandary for the Littles. Fortunately, an affable mouse (voiced by Michael J. Fox of "Back to the Future" fame), a long-time resident of the orphanage, approaches the would-be adopters with some helpful advice on who to pick. Impressed by the mouse's display of kindness, the Littles decide to adopt him and name him Stuart, despite advice from the head of the orphanage ("Saturday Night Live" alumnus Julia Sweeney) that they should adopt from 'within their own species'.
We do not eat family members!
At first, Stuart is overjoyed with finally being part of a real family, which he likens to a 'fairy tale coming true'. However, Stuart quickly comes to understand the challenges of integrating into his new family upon his arrival at the home of the Littles. First of all, he is almost eaten by the family cat, Snowbell (voiced by Nathan Lane of "Mousehunt" fame), who resents being the 'pet' of what would normally be his dinner. Second, upon returning home from school, George is disappointed with his parents' diminutive adoption choice, as Stuart is too small to go bike riding or play catch with. Undaunted, the Mr. and Mrs. Little do the best to make their new son feel at home, and help George accept his new little brother. Unfortunately, Snowbell has other plans for the latest addition to the Little family, and he recruits a couple of unsavory alley cats, Monty and Smokey (voiced by Steve Zahn of "Happy, Texas" and Chazz Palminteri of "Analyze This"), to deal with the 'problem'.
I know that you and I got off on the wrong paw. Whaddya say? You wanna be friends? I could rub your tummy.
How'd you like to rub it from the inside!
As the film's archetypal nuclear family, Laurie, Davis, and even the lovable Lipnicki give run-of-the-mill performances that are nothing to write home about, and they are hardly the reasons for seeing "Stuart Little", since this is the type of film where actors take a backseat to the impressive visual effects. Combining CGI and live-action, director Rob Minkoff (co-director of "The Lion King") has done an impressive job of bringing the adorable Stuart Little and his feline nemeses alive-- as you watch the film, it is easy to believe that mice and cats can talk and adopt human characteristics. Considering that "Antz" and "A Bug's Life" were the pinnacle of computer animation last year, it is impressive how for the state of the art has advanced by being able to simulate fur and whiskers on computer-generated characters. The blurring between the animated and the real world are further blurred by a number of impressive sequences that punch up the film's otherwise pedestrian script (which was co-written by M. Night Shyamalan, who wrote and directed "The Sixth Sense"), including a model sailboat race in Central Park and a chase scene where Stuart tries to outrun some hungry cats in a tiny roadster.
There's something you'll never be able to give him... because you're human.
Minkoff also brings on board an impressive roster of acting talent, who all seem to have a lot of fun chewing up scenery. In addition to the goombah thesping by Palminteri, Bruno Kirby ("Donnie Brasco") and Jennifer Tilley ("Bride of Chucky") lend their voices to a couple of mice who claim to be Stuart's real parents, a couple that would fit right in on the set of "The Sopranos". Also, Jon Polito parodies his no-nonsense detective persona Croscetti from "Homicide: Life on the Street", while Dabney Coleman ("You've Got Mail") deadpans as a doctor who tends to Stuart after an almost fatal run-in with a washing machine.
Stuart Little gets 'scratched' tonight!
If you're looking for something to do with the kids over the holidays and they've already seen the superior "Toy Story 2" at least ten times, "Stuart Little" makes for a nice afternoon out of the house. Boasting some impressive animation that makes its title character leap off the screen, this is one movie mouse that will give Mr. Jingles (the furry mascot seen in "The Green Mile") a run for his money.