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Stuart Little 2

Faithful readers will know that I question the logic of a human-sized family with a son who is two inches tall, particularly when the son is a mouse. In watching the first "Stuart Little" (1999), I cringed every time the heavy footfall of one of his parents landed near little Stuart. The mouse is cute, but he was born to be squished.

Stuart Little 2


I vowed to approach "Stuart Little 2" afresh. I would go into full-blown suspension-of-disbelief mode. If there must be a movie about a mouse-child in the real world, then I must accept it--even if the film toys with my fears by putting Stuart into a soccer game with full-sized kids. Even Stuart's mom (Geena Davis) gets the shivers at "the thought of all those boys running around with those cleats in their shoes." Stuart's dad (Hugh Laurie) is more optimistic, believing that a Little can do anything he sets his mind to, and sending the little tyke on dangerous missions, as when he is lowered down the kitchen drain to look for his mother's diamond ring. For that matter, Stuart's daily commute to school in his tiny little red sports car must not be without its hazards.

Of the voices, Griffith makes Margalo lovable and as sexy as a little yellow bird can be, and Lane does a virtuoso job with Snowbell, the only cat with dialogue by Damon Runyon. Fox's Stuart is stalwart and heroic--the Braveheart of mice. As for the parents, Davis and Laurie deserve some kind of award for keeping straight faces. My only question involves the sweet scene at the end, when Margalo bids them farewell to join the southward migration of geese in the autumn. I think there is a good chance she is a canary, and they don't migrate.

The color sense of "Stuart Little 2" is its most immediate and most obvious pleasure, but it would count for very little if the movie weren't as beautifully shaped and as delicately calibrated in tone as it is. In "Stuart Little 2," the mouse known as Stuart (once again borrowing the voice of Michael J. Fox) has become a fully integrated and beloved member of the human Little family, headed by Mom and Dad Little (again played by Davis and Hugh Laurie), and rounded out by George (Jonathan Lipnicki) and a new addition, a toddler sister named Martha (Anna and Ashley Hoelck). In addition to being a full-fledged Little, Stuart is an accepted and well-liked mouse in the community -- one of the movie's in jokes is that people seem to have stopped noticing his miniature size. He plays on the peewee soccer team (much to Mrs. Little's horror; she lives in constant fear that he'll get squooshed) and drives to school in his little red car. (When Mr. Little accuses Mrs. Little of being far too overprotective of Stuart, she says, "I let him drive his car to school, no other mother lets her kid do that!" And she has a point.)

"Stuart Little 2," like the first movie, is set in Manhattan, and it's very much a city fairy tale. The Littles live in the same townhouse on Central Park (it looks as if it's made out of gingerbread), but, unlike most real estate in the city, their property also includes a nice outdoor garden that looks almost like a real backyard. Stuart takes off in a toy plane and whizzes through Central Park, nearly taking the toupees off passersby; he scoots down the crowded sidewalks in his Stuart-mobile, zipping past shops and cafes and forests of human legs, and no one ever bats an eye. In the world of "Stuart Little 2," the city is a friendly, lively place, a setting for adventures that also comes with a little bit of danger (represented largely by Falcon, a magnificent, menacing winged creature with the voice of James Woods).

But all of these characters are at home in the city; it's part of their lives, and part of them. There's something about Stuart, especially in the way Fox speaks for him, that makes him seem like one of those small-town transplants who, instead of finding the city threatening, instantly take to it, recognizing it as nothing more than a collection of small neighborhoods. As Fox plays him, and as his character was designed, Stuart isn't aw-shucks cute. But there is something a little Jimmy Stewart about him (the Jimmy Stewart of "The Shop Around the Corner," not of "Vertigo") -- a quality of being perpetually at ease no matter how crazy the world around him gets.

As played by Laurie and Davis, his parents are warm and loving in a storybook way, but the movie knows when they get too sticky, and that's when Snowbell, the persnickety Persian (whose brilliant one-liners come to us by way of Nathan Lane), steps in for comic relief. The Littles have a special greeting: One will walk through the door and say, "Little hi, little low!" Another will respond, "Little hey, little ho!" Just as we're thinking that this dreadful Little greeting is a bit much, Snowbell says as much, with an indignant flounce of his furry pantalettes. At the same time, even the wiseacre Snowbell likes belonging to this family; he's the first one to roll his eyes at all the lovey-dovey glop, but we know it's not just the promise of the occasional tuna treat that keeps him close to hearth and home.

And you sure need great sound design to live up to the look of "Stuart Little 2." Cinematographer Steven Poster ("Donnie Darko") keeps everything crisp and bright. And production designer Bill Brzeski (who filled the same role on the first "Stuart Little" movie, as well as on Danny DeVito's wonderful and little-seen "Matilda") has outdone himself. When the Littles sit down in their dining room for a serious family conference, we can't help noticing that they're seated in red-and-white striped chairs -- but the stripes have a satiny texture, not a glossy one, which keeps them from looking too garish. The scheme is echoed in the rows of plates in the hutch behind Mrs. Little, with their deep red borders and white centers: Brzeski has perfected the art of putting humor (as opposed to jokiness) into the look of a movie. His colors don't vibrate annoyingly or jostle us: They sing, but they do so quietly, enhancing the action around them instead of detracting from it.

"Stuart Little 2" has a number of suitably encouraging themes for kids ("You're as big as you feel" is one of them), but they're played lightly enough so we don't feel weighed down by them. But its chief value is the way it transports us into a fantasy world of family warmth and adventure. When Stuart gets into trouble, the Littles (all of them, including little Martha in her car seat) bundle into a taxicab to find and help him. That's a great touch because, of course, it's the New York way -- to get from here to there in a hurry, aboveground, you hail one of these trundling yellow boatlike wonders.

STUART LITTLE 2 takes place where the last one left off, with Stuart (voiced by Michael J. Fox) living in New York with his parents (Hugh Laurie and Geena Davis), big brother George (Jonathan Lipnicki) and a new baby sister. The lives of the Little family are already somewhat tumultuous, with the new baby, George making new friends, and Mrs. Little loving but a bit overprotective. Stuart meets a lovely little bird named Margalo (voiced by Melanie Griffith) with an injured wing, and he takes her into his home. They become close, but she's not who she makes herself out to be and although she cares very much about Stuart and his family she must leave unexpectedly. Stuart doesn't understand and enlists the Littles' grumpy cat Snowbell (Nathan Lane) to help him find her. In the meantime, George covers up for Stuart by lying to his parents, and Stuart and Snowbell encounter many obstacles on their journey, but it all works out in the end.

Stuart Little 2 continues the adventures of a tiny mouse adopted from a city orphanage by Mr. and Mrs. Little (Hugh Laurie, Geena Davis). Stuart (voiced by Michael J. Fox) now plays on a peewee soccer team, shares a room with his big brother George (Jonathan Lipnicki), attends school and loves to skateboard. Even the family pet, Snowbell (voiced by Nathan Lane) has come to accept the little mouse as more than a quick lunch option. George, however, has started hanging out with kids his size, leaving Stuart desiring to find a friend of his own.

Stuart Little 2 features incredible computer animation that makes these little critters remarkably believable. This realism may make some chase scenes and life threatening moments a little too scary for the younger crowd. Brief name-calling, scatological humor and some mild stereotypical characters are also included.

The distinction between animals as family members and animals as pets still blurs in this follow-up film that provides more questions than answers to the intricacies of interspecies communication. Acting as the intermediary who can talk to everyone, this little mouse sets out to prove heroes can come in all sizes.

Falcon uses his power and intimidation to make Margalo assist him in his criminal activities. What made the little bird so vulnerable? What helped her to see that she was being used? How can parents help their own children avoid this type of unhealthy relationship? 041b061a72


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