Little hey, little ho! Little high, little low!
Everyone's favorite mouse is back…and I don't mean Mickey. In 1999, Stuart Little hit theaters in a big way—to the tune of over $75 million dollars! The little mouse that roared was based on the book by E.B. White and featured the voice talent of Michael J. Fox (Back to the Future) as our great white hero. In 2002, Stuart made a return to the big screen and…drum roll, please…well, unfortunately the little guy flopped. Grossing well under its expected take, Stuart Little 2 was all but squashed by the summer competition. Fans of the series will be able to get a second chance to see why Stuart was so "little" his second time around with the "special edition" release of Stuart Little 2 on DVD.
Facts of the Case
Stuart Little (Fox) is back in an all new adventure! This time out Stuart is learning the highs and lows of growing up as Stuart's brother George (Jonathan Lipnicki, Jerry Maguire) starts to find new friends at his elementary school. This leaves Stuart in a rather frustrating predicament—finding new play pals. This proves somewhat difficult for Stuart until a new buddy falls into his lap…quite literally! While driving down the street (in a toy car, in case you were wondering), a small goldfinch named Margalo (voice of Melanie Griffith) dives straight into Stuart's passenger seat after being chased by a giant Falcon (voice of James Woods). After taking Margalo home and helping her mend, Stuart and his parents (Geena Davis and Hugh Laurie) basically accept her as one of the family. As Stuart and Margalo spend more time together, they find that they have feelings for each other. In one scene they watch a drive-in movie on an old TV set. The film? Hitchcock's Vertigo. Hmmmm. Apparently Stuart doesn't know when he's being duped as that classic bears warnings of things to come for poor, naïve Stuart.
For whatever the reason I had a hard time liking the original Stuart Little. I found it to be overly sweet and sentimental—perfect kid's stuff, but far too saccharine for everyday adults. My sole reason for wanting to see Stuart Little 2 was Michael J. Fox. Long story short: I'm a big fan. So I popped in Stuart Little 2 with little fanfare or excitement, and was pleasantly surprised. While this sequel is certainly syrupy—you'll be hard pressed to find a film with more wide-eyed folks in all of Hollywood—it has a charm that works. Is it much different than the first film? I dunno. Maybe I was just in a better mood this time around.
The biggest obstacle viewers must overcome is buying that everyone in the film buys Stuart as an entity. No one seems to think it's quite strange that mice and birds speak, dress, and drive cars. This is all accepted with such a nonchalant attitude that it's at times quite baffling. Take the scene where Stuart's parents actually let him play in a soccer game with a batch of kids that tower over him like mountains. I don't know about you, but if I had a normal size kid I don't think I'd let him wrestle with Andre the Giant. But such is the life of the Little family—every member apparently deserves the chance to get squashed like a pancake.
For children, this movie will be a lot of fun. The animation is very good, with almost every scene incorporating some kind of magic trick to make us believe a man and a mouse can have a civilized discussion. Though the CGI work isn't always 100% successful (Margalo and Falcon often look too polished), overall I bought that these characters were living and breathing entities on the screen. The voice over work by all of the actors is very good, and sometimes even hysterical; Nathan Lane as Snowball, the Little family's snotty feline pet, spouts one-liners as if he's working his way through a minstrel show. Michael J. Fox is once again perfectly cast as the tiny hero, and newcomers Melanie Griffith and James Woods work well as the love interest and heavy, respectively.
As for the humans, Geena Davis and Hugh Laurie do the best they can to look like they're taking this material seriously. It must have been a rough day at the office trying to look worried about tiny mouse, especially one that doesn't even exist (except in computers). Jonathan Lipnicki is also back as Stuart's brother George, but this time around Lipnicki's a lot older and a lot less adorable. Much like Macaulay Culkin's fate, I have a sneaking suspicion that Lipnicki's cuteness factor is being chipped away by the monster that is puberty.
Clocking in at a very short 78 minutes, there's not a lot to Stuart Little 2. The story is breezy with an enlightening moral surrounded by action scenes that are exciting enough to entertain, yet never too scary for the littlest of tykes. Though most folks over twelve won't walk away with much, at least they'll know it's innocuous fluff that could have been worse. And for those of you who are fans, savor this film—I don't think we'll be seeing a Stuart Little 3 anytime in the near future.
Stuart Little 2 is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, as well as 1.33:1 full frame. The widescreen transfer is great save for only the slightest amount of haloing in one scene—otherwise, this is a grand transfer that sports bright colors and dark black levels. There isn't a lot to complain about with this image; everything seems to be in top notch order. There is also a full frame transfer available on this disc, though the overall effect is not nearly as nice as the widescreen presentation.
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English and French. Much like the video presentation, I was impressed with how full and bombastic this sound mix ended up being. There are a multitude of directional effects to be found in this track, as well as a dynamic and very clear soundstage. All aspects of the mix are free and clear of any excessive hiss or distortion, making this soundtrack a fantastic mix for any home theater system. Also included on this disc are English and French subtitles.
Well, here's the first Stuart Little 2 "special edition." I'm sure in another six months we can expect a "Deluxe Edition," Then in another year a "Super-Duper Edition," and so on. Until then, here's a run down of what's been included on this disc:
Commentary Track by Director Rob Minkoff and Visual Effects Supervisor Jerome Chen: This ended up being an amiable, informative commentary track that leans more towards the technical aspects of the film than the story/creative side. Much is discussed about the film's special effects shots, though a good deal of info about the shoot and cast is also dished out. All in all this is a fairly intriguing track that will do much more for adults than for children.
Show and Tell: This is one of those features where you watch the film, look for an icon on screen, push a button on your remote, then you're whisked off to various short featurettes about the making of the film, the special effects work, et cetera. These shorts are apparently only available in this feature of the disc, and nowhere else. That's going to be a little disappointing for those of you who only want to see the featurettes without the full feature film.
"A Touch of Evil" and "Life in the Fast Lane" Featurettes: "A Touch of Evil" is a short featurette on the film's baddie, Falcon. This documentary is a lot of fun for those looking to get an idea how the CGI work was produced for this character. Also included on this featurette are interviews with actor James Woods and various special effects crew members. "Life in the Fast Lane" takes a broader look at the overall production of the film, including some behind-the-scenes footage of Michael J. Fox, the animation process, and other cast and crew members at work.
Read-Along: "Stuart Little's Big Adventure: A basic read-along that you can read with your kids or listen to with audio narration.
Music Video "I'm Alive" by Celine Dion: Hey, wasn't Dion supposed to have been be retired? Apparently not, and here's the full frame music video to prove it. I haven't seen this much make-up on a performer since Tammy Faye Baker in 1987.
Stuart's Circle of Friends Game: A very short trivia game. Strictly for children under the age of about negative two.
Finally there is a promotion for the "Stuart Little 2" video game, a few filmographies on various cast and crew members, some trailers for other Columbia family DVD titles, and some DVD-ROM content for a PC.
Stuart Little 2 isn't the best children's film ever made, though it's far from being the worst. It's short and quick, which is always a good thing for movies of this nature. Fox, Griffith, and the rest of the cast do a fine job with the light and fluffy story. I put it just below The Indian in the Cupboard and way above anything starring Elmo.
Stuart Little 2 is given an early release for good behavior. Case dismissed!
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary Track by Director Rob Minkoff and Visual Effects Supervisor Jerome Chen
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