The most brilliant touch in “Stuart Little,” the delightful new family comedy based on the story by E.B. White (“Charlotte’s Web”), is that when the Little family goes to adopt a child, and they come home with a talking mouse named Stuart, NO ONE CARES.
This is a talking mouse, for crying out loud! Yet no one ever seems surprised that a rodent can speak. If anything is an issue, it’s the fact that the family has adopted a mouse instead of a human — but even there, the only one to raise a fuss is Stuart’s adoptive brother, George (Jonathon Lipnicki).
The first half of the film is spent on Stuart winning over George, which he does by helping him win a toy-boat race in Central Park. After that, we move to Plot #2: Stuart’s alleged birth parents show up to collect him, and he leaves the Little family for life as a mouse. Naturally, there’s sinister doings afoot, but all turns out well in the end.
Stuart (voiced with lovable “aw-shucks” charm by Michael J. Fox), who exists only in computer-animation land, looks perfect, and the blend between live action and animation is seamless. A gang of cats, who talk but can only be understood by their fellow animals, have equally impressive voices and facial movements, aided by the same technology that gave us the two “Babe” movies.
Something else this film picked up from the “Babe” movies is the idea of creating the human characters in broad and cartoonish — yet eminently likable — strokes.
In addition, “Stuart Little” shares “Babe’s” storybook charm and refusal to talk down to its audience. While many family comedies are either too dirty for kids or too stupid for adults, this one is neither. Adults will be charmed by the film’s guileless sense of humor and sweetly overdone message of tolerance — it doesn’t matter that Stuart looks “different” from his family; they’re still family! — and kids will like everything else about it.
Everyone wishes Hollywood would make more high-quality, entertaining family films. Thankfully, they still turn up every now and then.
A- (; )
In 2012, I reconsidered this movie for my Re-Views column at Film.com.