Stuart Little 2

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The first “Stuart Little” seemed to exist in a world apart from other movies. Its special effects were seamless, its humor guileless, its story well-told, its messages sweetly overdone. The acting, even among the humans, was gently cartoonish and stylized. I wondered, as I wondered again this year with “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron,” how a major Hollywood studio ever got involved in such a worthwhile project.

The sequel is a mixed blessing, then. It is exactly the same as the first film — same sunny disposition, same cast, same director. But on the down side … it is EXACTLY THE SAME AS THE FIRST FILM. Even the plot, in which sinister animals pull con jobs on the Little family, remains. It’s hard to recommend a film that’s so utterly a retread of its predecessor, but it’s hard NOT to recommend one where James Woods is the voice of an evil falcon named Falcon.

This time around, the emotional crises are as follows: Mrs. Little (Geena Davis) is being overprotective of anthropomorphic little Stuart the Canadian mouse (voice of Michael J. Fox, playing a character approximately his same size), and Stuart’s human brother George (Jonathan Lipnicki; I’m tired of him now) is making friends outside the family. Stuart is feeling lonely and smothered, but his adoptive dad (Hugh Laurie) tells him to find the silver lining on every cloud. That’s the Little way, he says, and you believe it: Mr. and Mrs. Little are Ward and June Cleaver incarnate, only somehow even more optimistic.

Stuart’s in luck. He rescues a wounded bird named Margalo (voice of Melanie Griffith) from the aforementioned Falcon, and the two become friends. But there is trouble afoot, and everyone learns valuable lessons about the importance of being honest and why you shouldn’t trust birds, or something.

The performances are uniformly charming; director Rob Minkoff has a skill, it would seem, for getting all of his actors to deliver performances cut from the same cloth. Nathan Lane gets the best lines as the voice of Snowbell, the Little family’s neurotic cat; he also gets the film’s obligatory poop jokes.

Unabashedly, “Stuart Little 2” is for kids. It is not interested in providing ironic, winking jokes to entertain their parents. And since kids don’t mind watching the same sort of thing repeatedly, there’s no reason not to take them to “Stuart Little 2.”

B (1 hr., 15 min.; PG, peril and stuff.)

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