Stuart Little

Directed by Rob Minkoff
Starring: Geena Davis, Hugh Laurie, Jonathan Lipnicki, voices of Michael J. Fox and Nathan Lane.
MPAA Rating: PG for brief language.

Review by Matt Heffernan
December 18, 1999

In my review of The Green Mile last week, I didn't mention one of its co-stars: Mr. Jingles the Mouse. Some critics have been treating him like a scapegoat, as if he were Jar Jar Binks or something. I thought that he was a rather pleasant addition to the film, even if he was vermin. This week, Hollywood sends another mouse into battle, but this one is computer-generated and talks. So much for pushing spools around.

Mr. and Mrs. Little (Hugh Laurie and Geena Davis) are looking to adopt a brother for their son George (Jonathan Lipnicki). At the orphanage, they choose Stuart (voiced by Michael J. Fox), even though he is a mouse, and therefore noticably different from the rest of the Little family. At first, George isn't too happy about having a rodent for a brother, but the family eventually pulls together.

The idea of having a mouse in the family is still difficult for Snowbell (voiced by Nathan Lane), who is embarrased to be the pet of what should be his prey. Snowbell, with the help of a "family" of alleycats, hatches a scheme to get rid of the pest and restore his dignity.

I distinctly remember reading E.B. White's Stuart Little when I was 9 years old, but I don't remember much about it. Nothing in this film rang any bells, so I couldn't say it was exactly true to the book. It was charming, with an interesting visual sense. The Littles live in one of those old Victorian houses wedged between two highrises that only exist in the movies. I'd love to see where they shopped for clothing, which made them look like a surreal version of Norman Rockwell.

What is very impressive is the mouse. Obviously, he's not supposed to be totally realistic (you know, the whole bipedal, talking, clothes-wearing thing), but the detail is quite amazing. The integration into the live action is also done so well that you often forget that he's not there. The film does have problems, and the unavoidable comparisons to the Babe movies aren't the least of them. The blatant parallel to interracial adoption is forcefed to the audience ad nauseam. Then there's what I call the "Penis Breath" Addendum, named in honor of the line from E.T. that was added to avoid a G rating. They made the language of the alleycats a little salty to pull a PG for Stuart Little, which really wasn't necessary.

What was most surprising about this film was a writing credit for M. Night Shyamalan, who made a big splash this year by writing and directing The Sixth Sense. Aside from the distorted urban setting, there isn't much in common between the two films. It would have been interesting to see little Lipnicki say "I see dead mice."

For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
Stuart Little (1999)

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Stuart Little (1999) -- VHS
Stuart Little (1999) -- DVD
Stuart Little, a novel by E.B. White -- Hardcover
Stuart Little, a novel by E.B. White -- Paperback
Stuart Little, a novel by E.B. White -- Audio CD (read by Julie Harris)
Stuart Little: Soundtrack -- Compact Disc Home
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Review © 1999 Matt Heffernan