Stuart Little
directed by Rob Minkoff
(COMPANY, 1999)

"What happened to the bird?" Kyle asked as we gathered our belongings to leave the theater. After reading E.B. White's classic novel of a tiny boy who resembles a mouse as a month-long bedtime ritual, we'd been eager to see Stuart Little on the big screen. Now, my 7-year-old son had just realized that a movie can have the same name, but otherwise bear little resemblance to the book. He found this slightly disturbing.

While Stuart Little has little in common with the book besides the Little family and a suspenseful sailboat race, it is an entertaining film nonetheless. Instead of Stuart arriving at the Little's as an infant, the literate, well-dressed, more mature mouse is adopted as by the well-meaning parents from an orphanage. Rather than developing a friendship with Margalo, a beautiful young bird with a blaze of yellow on her chest, and setting off in search of her en route to adventures, the new movie boasts a kidnapping plot, a diminutive (but altogether visible) car chase, and a myriad of feline villains.

The performances of the non-human cast more than make up for the disparities in plot. The tiny Stuart Little created by the artists at Imageworks has incredibly expressive eyes and strangely human hands. Voiced by Michael J. Fox, Stuart is spunky, witty and humble. But the film belongs to Nathan Lane, the voice of the Little's cat Snowbell, who reacts badly to becoming the pet of a rodent, murmurs the best lines and engages furry friends in low places, including the resourceful and hungry Smokey, to rid his house of the newcomer.

The Little parents, Geena Davis and Hugh Laurie, are odd by likable. Young Jonathan Lipnicki as their son George, who yearns for a "little brother," is more believable in his emotional reactions toward the mouse, though his plot-required capabilities of building model cars and boats is a tad far-fetched for his age.

The film features a more cohesive plot than White's episodic original, although purists might express the initial concerns of the 7-year-old. One benefit of the film version is that it resolves the conflicts presented, a common complaint regarding the book -- although that was never an issue at our house.

We were also content with the film. After being reassured that Margalo, Stuart's little bird friend, and Dr. Carey, who was really the expert model builder from the story, were sure to be in the movie sequel, Kyle decided that his favorite part of the movie was the ending credits: a free-spirited mouse and boy romp that involved using a bed as a trampoline and flipping poor Snowbell out the window.

"It's funny!" is what Kyle wants everyone to know.

[ by Julie Bowerman ]

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