When mousey antics are charming
Stuart Little 2 is a real fantasy.
In a year filled with movies alternating between mediocre and film noir, it is refreshing to see an all out family entertainer like Stuart Little 2 that also boasts superior production values. While watching it, a viewer is bound to marvel at the producers who mix action with animation. To weave a seamless thread between these two media is itself a work of great difficulty; that the film also tells an entertaining story magnifies the producers' achievement.
In the original film, a cute mouse-orphan (voice of Michael J Fox) is adopted by the Little family (Hugh Laurie and Geena Davis playing Mr and Mrs Little) and brought home to live with their kid (Jonathan Lipnicki in the role of George).
After several adventures with the family and a scary episode of kidnapping, Stuart Little is reunited with the Littles and the film rode to fame as one of the biggest grossers in 1999.
Stuart Little 2 begins with the mouse having settled down happily with his human family in their Manhattan apartment. The Manhattan settings are as lush and classically beautiful as those of its predecessor. The city shimmers with a plumage of different colours, with a special focus on greenery in Central Park. The metropolis is swathed in radiant sunlight, reminiscent of those few days in Manhattan when all seems well and the world seems to be singing along with you.
The interiors of the Little household seem like a little child's dream. Squeaky clean except for the endearing clutter of little children, dark wooden furniture, cute little paintings of animals, family and baseball stars, and the fluffy bedcovers vibrant with multi-color pillows and comforters, a small one for Stuart's human brother, and a very tiny one for Stuart himself.
Stuart Little's allure was its brilliant animation and witty screenplay (mainly coming to life in the witticisms of Snowbell, the cat), factors that rescued it from a staid storyline and sometimes languorous pace. Stuart Little 2 has emphatically done away with the shortfalls of the previous film. The story line has a few interesting twists while keeping true to the traditional children adventure story, and it never drags.
At the same time, its original winning features have been strengthened further. The animation is simply brilliant (more on this later) and the dialogues emanating from Snowbell have, if anything, become more witty and pungent. An unintended but deserved consequence of this film would be that it is Snowbell and not Stuart Little that will go on to achieve animation cult success.
The story this time is about Stuart Little growing up and becoming a man, or rather a bigger mouse. In some ways, this is a natural progression from the previous film. In the first edition, Stuart gets himself a set of adopted parents and learns to adjust with an initially hostile older brother.
After the rites of childhood, it is time now in the second edition for Stuart to learn the pangs of school going children, like adroitly sidestepping an overly protective mother and dealing with indifferent classmates. He manages to score a goal in a soccer game, but only after getting plastered on the football itself. He goes to school in a cool sports car just his size, but when he asks his friends out, they turn him down. He flies through Central Park in a toy airplane, but crashes it on a tree branch much to the ire of his brother.
Just when Stuart is mulling over the limitations of his identity, something happens that is destined to change his life in many ways. He meets a tiny bird, Margalo (voice of Melanie Griffith) who literally falls in his lap trying to escape an evil falcon unimaginatively called Falcon (voice of James Woods). Stuart, ever the chivalrous bachelor, rescues Margalo and takes her home. At the Little's, Margalo is greeted with affection by the family and dismay by the cat. Soon Margalo becomes affectionate towards Stuart, precipitating a chain of adventurous events. Suffice it to say that the film ends with a showdown between Stuart and Falcon, setting the stage for some of the most energetic animation thrills seen in recent years.
One of the revelations in this film is the excellent soundtrack. Though Stuart Little 2 contains a brief musical interlude, the film is not a musical in the tradition of The Lion King or The Little Mermaid. But the sampling presented in the film should tempt anyone to buy the soundtrack which includes Celine Dion's I am alive, Mary Mary's Put a little love in your heart, Mandy Moore's Top of the world, and Shawn Colvin's Hold on to the good thing.
Stuart Little 2 excels at a kind of fantasy that can be called 'realist-virtual'. The film does not create a different world for its imaginary characters but instead lets the streams of fantasy ebb and flow with real life characters and everyday props. Stuart is computer generated, but lives happily with his adopted family. He scurries down passages but these passages are nothing but the pipeline of the kitchen sink. Finally, he confronts the evil Falcon but the confrontation takes place on top of a real Manhattan skyscraper. The film showcases its ability to convincingly mix fantasy with real life, and therein lies its charm and assured success.