Stuart Little

on December 17, 1999 by Wade Major
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E.B. White's classic children's tale "Stuart Little" receives a predictable, if harmless, screen treatment in this congenial holiday effort mounted by "The Lion King" co-director Rob Minkoff. The obvious intent here is to enter "Babe" territory, blending state-of-the-art computer imaging and live action to do for mice what Universal's surprise 1995 hit did for pigs. And though the filmmakers never really come close to realizing such lofty goals, they do succeed often enough to keep both children and adults satisfactorily diverted.
   Set in a mildly surreal New York City where vocally empowered rodents elicit remarkably little astonishment from humans, "Stuart Little" tells the story of Mr. and Mrs. Little (Hugh Laurie and Geena Davis), a loving couple who head to the corner orphanage one morning intent on furnishing their natural son George ("Jerry Maguire's" Jonathan Lipnicki) with the little brother he has long wanted. What they return with, however, is not a human child but an orphaned mouse named Stuart (Michael J. Fox)--a dapper little fellow who wins the hearts of his new parents, but faces an emotional barricade from the disappointed George. The family cat Snowbell ("Mousehunt's" Nathan Lane on a different kind of mousehunt) also has issues with the new addition, letting Stuart know in no uncertain terms that their new "relationship" is not acceptable.
   Subsequent twists and turns are familiar stuff: George learns to love Stuart just as Snowbell and his feline conspirators hatch a plot to eliminate the mouse, nearly succeeding before everything ties up in a neat, holiday bow, restoring the happy family unit as never before. Children, of course, aren't cynical enough to spot the seams in the storytelling and will probably enjoy the film thoroughly, without reservation. Adults, on the other hand, may be less enthused, but will be gratified to find their patience not overly taxed, thanks to some sporadically smart writing from Greg Booker and "The Sixth Sense" director/scribe M. Night Shyamalan.
   Unlike "Babe," it should be noted that Stuart is a complete digital creation in the "Toy Story" vein, courtesy of "Star Wars" special effects legend John Dykstra and a team of exceptionally capable animators. The end result, in fact, may be the film's most impressive attribute, perhaps the most successful blending of artificial and live action characters since "Who Framed Roger Rabbit." Whether or not such technical prowess will be enough to pry families away from the "Toy Story 2" lines is another matter. Starring Geena Davis, Hugh Laurie, Jonathan Lipnicki and the voices of Michael J. Fox, Nathan Lane, Chazz Palminteri, Steve Zahn, Bruno Kirby, Jennifer Tilly, David Alan Grier and Jim Doughan. Directed by Rob Minkoff. Written by M. Night Shyamalan and Greg Brooker. Produced by Douglas Wick. A Columbia release. Family. PG for brief language. Running time: 85 min
Tags: Starring Geena Davis, Hugh Laurie, Jonathan Lipnicki, the voices of Michael J. Fox, Nathan Lane, Chazz Palminteri, Steve Zahn, Bruno Kirby, Jennifer Tilly, David Alan Grier and Jim Doughan. Directed by Rob Minkoff. Written by M. Night Shyamalan, Greg Brooker, Produced by Douglas Wick, Columbia, Family
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