Combustible Celluloid
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With: Geena Davis, Hugh Laurie, Jonathan Lipnicki, Michael J. Fox (voice), Nathan Lane (voice), Chazz Palminteri (voice), Steve Zahn (voice), Bruno Kirby (voice), Jennifer Tilly (voice)
Written by: M. Night Shyamalan, Greg Brooker, based on a book by E.B. White
Directed by: Rob Minkoff
MPAA Rating: PG for brief language
Running Time: 84
Date: 12/05/1999

Stuart Little (1999)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Mouse Party

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The Little family lives in an old-fashioned house in New York City. This is not Martin Scorsese's New York. It's more like Doris Day's New York, filmed in rich color that looks like the Technicolor of the 1950's. Stuart Little himself is voiced by Michael J. Fox, and our acceptance of the movie depends on whether or not we like him. I did. But besides that, Stuart Little is a slight movie with more charm than plot.

The screenplay by M. Night Shyamalan concerns a model boat race and a kidnapping. (If this name looks familiar, you might remember him as the talented writer/director of The Sixth Sense.) It follows the Littles (Hugh Laurie and Genna Davis), a couple who have been approved to adopt a new child but instead fall in love with Stuart, a talking mouse who lives at the orphanage. The only drama in this story lies in waiting for the other characters in the movie to accept Stuart as one of the family, with the not-so-surprising last holdout being the family cat (voiced by Nathan Lane), who hatches a detailed plan to get rid of Stuart.

Stuart Little has assembled an impressive collection of character actors. Most of them are playing animals of some kind, and I had a lot of fun trying to figure out who was who. The animals (cats and mice) are voiced by Chazz Palminteri, Steve Zahn, David Alan Grier, Bruno Kirby, and Jennifer Tilly. The live actors, an impressive comedy team, are: Jeffrey Jones, Brian Doyle-Murray, Estelle Getty, Dabney Coleman, and Julia Sweeny. No one has an abundance of screen time, but everyone gets to do their bit.

Stuart Little isn't nearly as accomplished as other kids' movies like Babe (1995), Babe: Pig in the City (1998), and this year's The Iron Giant and Toy Story 2. Those movies had rich stories and settings into which to fit their characters and morals. Still, I found myself caring for the humble little mouse, and that's the whole point.

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