×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Stuart Little

Given what a tricky proposition it is to adapt a classic children's book for the screen, this take on E.B. White's "Stuart Little" does a more-than-passable job of resurrecting the story for a new generation. Still, despite technically impressive animation, ample doses of humor and seamless special effects, the filmmakers have taken a slick, commercial approach to the material that turns White's magical 1945 tale into a labored feel-good movie.

With:
Mrs. Little - Geena Davis Mr. Little - Hugh Laurie George Little - Jonathan Lipnicki Cousin Edgar - Brian Doyle-Murray Grandma Estelle - Estelle Getty Mrs. Keeper - Julia Sweeney Dr. Beechwood - Dabney Coleman Voices: Stuart Little - Michael J. Fox Snowbell - Nathan Lane Smokey - Chazz Palminteri Monty - Steve Zahn Lucky - Jim Doughan Red - David Alan Grier Mr. Stout - Bruno Kirby Mrs. Stout - Jennifer Tilly

Given what a tricky proposition it is to adapt a classic children’s book for the screen, this take on E.B. White’s “Stuart Little” does a more-than-passable job of resurrecting the story for a new generation. Still, despite technically impressive animation, ample doses of humor and seamless special effects, the filmmakers have taken a slick, commercial approach to the material that turns White’s magical 1945 tale into a labored feel-good movie. That may make good business sense at a time when the name Buzz Lightyear means a lot more to kids than Stuart Little, but it won’t meet the expectations of viewers familiar with the source. Parents, at least initially, will happily take the kids along to this family-themed pic, but it’s questionable whether younger auds will enthusiastically take up the cause themselves.

Using White’s story as a point of departure, scribes M. Night Shyamalan (“The Sixth Sense”) and Greg Brooker and director Rob Minkoff have taken license to play up the tale’s dramatic and cinematic elements. Presumably, the birth of a rodent into a human family (the book’s scenario) would have been difficult to explain, so in this version Mr. and Mrs. Little (played with earnest, eccentric charm by Hugh Laurie and Geena Davis) cheerfully trot off to a Gotham adoption agency, having promised to bring home a little brother for their son, George (“Jerry Maguire’s” Jonathan Lipnicki).

Popular on Variety

George is less than thrilled when, for reasons not fully clear, his parents return from the orphanage with a mouse named Stuart (voiced with boyish glee by Michael J. Fox). Even more irked with the new arrival is family feline Snowbell (a scathingly funny Nathan Lane). Though Snowbell initially mistakes Stuart for dinner, Mr. Little reminds the cat that Stuart is family, “and we don’t eat family members.” Appalled, Snowbell’s alley cat pals insist the mouse must go, so they consult feline crime boss Smokey (a raspy Chazz Palminteri), who brings in a pair of wayward mice (Bruno Kirby and Jennifer Tilly) to pose as Stuart’s long-lost biological parents. Though saddened at Stuart’s departure, the Littles feel he’d be better off with his own kind. What they don’t know is that his “parents” are part of an elaborate kidnapping scheme.

Stuart’s desperate attempts to return home make up much of the final act, along with a Central Park confrontation that pits the mouse against a group of tough-talking felines (among them a hilariously dry Steve Zahn). Some of this sequence might prove too scary for small viewers, though most everyone escapes unscathed.

The humans play supporting roles here; without much to do, they tend to serve as window dressing in support of the more interesting animated creatures. The animals, especially the cats, get all the best lines, making the humans seem dull or dim-witted by comparison.

In all tech areas, “Stuart Little” is top-notch. The digitally rendered title character is thoroughly convincing, with attention paid to the most minute details, from the sheen of his fur to the folds of his tiny trousers (his head alone boasts a half-million computer-generated hairs). Bill Brzeski’s production design envisions the Littles’ Gotham as an idealized, squeaky-clean city that, in Guillermo Navarro’s lens, has all the intimate charm of a hamlet. Similarly, Joseph Porro’s dapper costumes recall a more innocent era, and the striking primary colors of Mrs. Little’s wardrobe complement her resolutely perky demeanor. Alan Silvestri’s upbeat score advances the action nicely.

Stuart Little

Production: A Sony Pictures Entertainment release of a Columbia Pictures presentation of a Douglas Wick and Franklin/Waterman production. Produced by Douglas Wick. Executive producers, Jeff Franklin, Steve Waterman, Jason Clark. Directed by Rob Minkoff. Screenplay, M. Night Shyamalan, Greg Brooker, based on the book by E.B. White.

Crew: Camera (Deluxe color), Guillermo Navarro; editor, Tom Finan; music, Alan Silvestri; music supervisor, Elliot Lurie; production designer, Bill Brzeski; art director, Philip Toolin; set decorator, Clay A. Griffith; costume designer, Joseph Porro; sound (Dolby Digital), Lawrence H. Mann; animation supervisor, Henry Anderson; senior visual effects supervisor, John Dykstra; visual effects supervisor, Jerome Chen; senior visual effects producer, Michelle Murdocca; special effects supervisor, Eric Allard; assistant director, Benita Allen-Honess; casting, Debra Zane. Reviewed at Sony Studios, Culver City, Nov. 21, 1999. MPAA Rating: PG. Running time: 92 MIN.

With: Mrs. Little - Geena Davis Mr. Little - Hugh Laurie George Little - Jonathan Lipnicki Cousin Edgar - Brian Doyle-Murray Grandma Estelle - Estelle Getty Mrs. Keeper - Julia Sweeney Dr. Beechwood - Dabney Coleman Voices: Stuart Little - Michael J. Fox Snowbell - Nathan Lane Smokey - Chazz Palminteri Monty - Steve Zahn Lucky - Jim Doughan Red - David Alan Grier Mr. Stout - Bruno Kirby Mrs. Stout - Jennifer Tilly

More Film

  • After Class

    Film Review: ‘After Class’

    Arguably the best thing about “After Class,” a purposely untidy and exceptionally intelligent dramedy about frayed family ties and academic contretemps, is writer-director Daniel Schechter’s refusal to ever let his protagonist off too easy. To be sure, lead player Justin Long’s graceless-under-pressure Josh Cohn comes across as more clueless than unsympathetic, less chronically selfish than [...]

  • Aubrey Plaza Spirit Awards

    Aubrey Plaza Returning as Indie Spirit Awards Host

    Aubrey Plaza will return to the white tent on Santa Monica beach to host the Film Independent Spirit Awards for the second consecutive year. Now in its 35th year, the ceremony honoring the year’s best independent cinema will be held on Feb. 8. The 2020 celebration will broadcast live on IFC. “Like all great independent [...]

  • New Republic Pictures

    'Suspiria' Producer Bradley J. Fischer Joins New Republic as President

    Bradley J. Fischer, whose credits include “Zodiac,” “Black Sawn” and “Suspiria,” is joining Brian Oliver’s New Republic Pictures as president and chief content officer. Fischer has signed a multi-year pact with Paramount-based New Republic. Fischer and Oliver will produce all New Republic projects, including film, television and streaming. Fischer will continue to produce his pre-existing projects, [...]

  • Alfre Woodard

    Alfre Woodard Reflects on Her First Oscar Nomination and Her Career So Far

    When Alfre Woodard was 22, she drove from Boston to Los Angeles, only stopping in her Tulsa, Okla., hometown. The four-time Emmy winner, now 67, has been acting ever since. Woodard’s career began in theater, despite her inability to sing or dance, with help from late choreographer Lester Wilson. An early play, “So Nice, They [...]

  • Julia Fox Uncut Gems

    Saoirse Ronan, Julia Fox and More Actors Discuss the Women Who Inspired Them

    In her first film role, Julia Fox blazes into “Uncut Gems” as Julia, the ambitious but loyal mistress of Adam Sandler’s jeweler. It’s a complex character the audience can’t always read. To play Julia, Fox says she had a couple inspirations. “My younger self, for sure,” she admits. “Looking at myself retrospectively, how I survived, [...]

  • Disney's MULAN..Mulan (Yifei Liu)..Photo: Film Frame..©

    Mulan Goes to War in Disney's Action-Packed Trailer

    Hua Mulan readies to put her life on the line for her community and family in a new trailer for Disney’s live-action “Mulan.” Based on Disney’s 1998 animated classic, “Mulan” tells the story of a woman (portrayed by Yifei Liu) who poses as a man to fight in the Chinese army. The footage, dropped Thursday, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content