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December 16, 1999
Of Mice, Men And Manoj Shyamalan
Arthur J Pais
The hit director of The Sixth Sense opts for a heartwarming cat and mouse story this time.
After dealing with the dead and ghosts, the 29-year-old writer and director of The Sixth Sense has another film on the blocks, Stuart Little, which he has co-scripted with Greg Brooker.
The reviews are mostly positive for the film that opens in more than 2,000 theaters this week through Columbia Pictures. Many trade pundits expect it to gross at least $ 100 million in the United States.
Adopting a 1945 classic by E B White, the scriptwriters used several departures to make the book more acceptable to a new generation.
Thus, instead of re-telling the original story in which a mouse is a born in a family, the scriptwriters offer a magical tale of an orphan mouse adopted by a couple whose only child wants a brother.
The newcomer, Stuart Little, is not welcomed with grace by George Little but soon the live-action dapper, talking mouse (with Michael J Fox's voice) becomes part of the human family.
Kids should not have trouble buying the premise -- and the scriptwriters offer many lessons about domestic bliss and conflict for the adults too.
At recent previews children roared with approval as they watched Stuart win the love of his new little-boy brother and cope with the human and animal worlds, including the perils of a jealous house cat and a washing machine.
The human speech coming from a seven-centimeter-tall creature who stands upright and dresses better than most people has its own appeal.
The computer animation marvel fits smoothly into real-life surroundings. One sees his reflection on polished surfaces and his little digital head has been decorated with half-million hair.
There's also a wonderful voice performance by Nathan Lane (Birdcage), who makes the personality of Snowbell the house cat a funny blend of malevolence and frustration.
Shyamalan and Brooker's storytelling has a lot more appeal to grown-ups. When some hungry alley cats corner Stuart in a tree at night, even the most sceptical adults tend to root for the mouse.
And at the movie's close, many adults at the sneak previews had moist eyes.
Jonathan Lipnicki, the child actor who made a memorable film debut in Jerry Maguire, plays George Little, who had been hoping for a brother and must come to terms with an adorable mouse.
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