THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


A few years ago, I was surprisingly charmed by a movie called Stuart Little. Although it had initially appeared to be little more than a generic kiddie flick, the film turned out to be surprisingly sweet and funny for adults too. I responded to the imagination of the story - the idea that a family could adopt a talking mouse and make it one of their own. It was a movie about family values if ever there was one. Stuart Little was a runaway hit, and this summer brings the inevitable sequel. The good news is that Stuart Little 2 recaptures all the warmth and humor that made the original so much fun.

Michael J. Fox again provides the voice of the main character. Stuart is now a fully integrated member of the Little family, which includes Mr. Little (Hugh Laurie), Mrs. Little (Geena Davis), brother George (Jonathan Lipnicki), and new baby sister Martha. Stuart drives himself to school every day in a toy car, but has to be closely followed by George. He inspires constant worry in his mother and therefore longs for more responsibility.

A mouse and a bird team up for high-flying adventure in Stuart Little 2
When George begins spending more time with a human friend, Stuart decides to make a new friend of his own. He accidentally meets Margalo (voice of Melanie Griffith), a small bird who is being hunted by the dreaded Falcon (voice of James Woods). Stuart grows close to Margalo, not realizing that Falcon forces her into a life of crime. Specifically, she steals things of value and promptly makes off with Mrs. Little's diamond ring. (It is not until now, when I am writing this review, that I wonder what use a falcon has with a diamond ring. Chalk it up to good filmmaking that I didn't think to ask that question while I was sitting in the theater.) Stuart knows that Margalo is only stealing because she's being forced to, so he sets out to save her with some help from feline Snowbell (hilariously voiced again by Nathan Lane).

Stuart Little 2 has lots of delightful moments, including one in which the mouse journeys down the drain pipe of the kitchen sink. He also flies a toy airplane, gets trapped on a garbage barge, and participates in a youth soccer game (his uniform number is 1/2). These scenes aren't complicated, but they all show a sense of imagination on the part of the filmmakers. Stuart is a good role model for kids because he's ingenious and he never lets his differences stop him from doing anything.

Kids will love that, in addition to the silly humor. Adults will find laughs in the antics of Snowbell, who delivers some dialogue that is just dripping with sarcasm. Of course, there are also some amusing things that have little to do with the plot itself. Like the way Jonathan Lipnicki looks younger in this movie than he did in Like Mike, which was released just last month. (What exactly is the turnaround time on special effects completion anyway?) Or the fact that the script was written by Bruce Joel Rubin, who previously penned such metaphysical tearjerkers as My Life and Ghost.

The effects in Stuart Little 2 are terrific, and so are the messages: Don't give up. Families accept one another no matter what. Responsibility is something you earn. Every cloud has a silver lining. Those are basic messages, to be sure, but how wonderful that kids can learn them through a movie that is so likably good-hearted.

( out of four)

Stuart Little 2 is rated PG for brief mild language. The running time is 1 hour and 18 minutes.

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