PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):
The film opens with Eleanor and Frederick Little and and their son George on the day they are intending an adoption. While George is at school, his parents go to the orphanage where, they fall in love with a thoughtful, observant mouse named Stuart, who knows almost everything about the other children, having been there for a long time. Despite the warnings of Mrs. Keeper (the woman in charge), who says that humans should not be adopting mice, they decide to adopt him as their second son.
Immediately after getting home, Stuart meets Snowbell (voiced by Nathan Lane) the family cat, who immediately attempts to eat him. George is surprised when his parents introduce Stuart as his new brother. He thinks it is a joke at first, but is shocked when he sees they are serious. That night, Snowbell visits Stuart and requests that he keep a low profile, so as to avoid getting seen by the other cats and damaging Snowbell’s reputation.
George is at first sullen and somewhat disappointed and treats Stuart with contempt. He eventually snaps at a family gathering when they encourage him to play “catch” with him. He also earns Snowbell’s wrath when his friend, Monty the Mouth visits for food. As Snowbell tries to keep him from seeing Stuart, he makes a scene trying to get a cereal box from a cupboard. When he sees him and discovers he is a member of the family, Monty cannot contain himself. Enraged, Snowbell tries to kill him, who narrowly escapes by fleeing into the basement. Here, he learns that George keeps a playroom and the two interact and eventually, George comes to accept him as his brother. He also finds that George keeps a toy car just his size. They decide to work together to finish George’s homemade model boat, the Wasp, for the Central Park Boat Race the following week.
Snowbell, however, isn’t finished. He and Monty head to an alley that night to visit Smokey (voiced by Chazz Palminteri), a Mafia Don-like Russian Blue who is the leader of the alley cats. Since Snowbell doesn’t want Stuart killed, he makes a plan with the alley cats to remove him from the Littles’ house. On the day of the 92nd annual Central Park Boat Race, the Wasp is finished, and they arrive at Central Park. George discovers his nemesis, Anton, is there. At the same time, Stuart accidentally destroys George’s remote control, rendering his boat inoperable. To make up for this, he takes control of it himself. Anton, however, attempts to cheat by ramming his much larger boat into other ones and sinking them. When he attempts to do the same thing to the Wasp, Stuart manages to bite into the line of his sail, rendering Anton’s boat inoperable. He subsequently wins the race.
That night, the Littles are visited by Reginald and Camille Stout, a mouse couple claiming to be Stuart’s parents. After discussion, he reluctantly leaves with his parents, taking the toy car with him as a goodbye present from George and they go to their home, a small toy castle on a golf course. Three days later, the Littles are visited by Mrs. Keeper, whom they had asked to do some background research on Stuart. She tells them that, according to the records, his parents died several years ago after a pile of canned food fell on them. The Littles realised that he had been kidnapped and call the police.
A terrified Snowbell rushes to the alley and warns Smokey and the others about the Littles’ discovery. He then decides that the only way to rectify things is to kill him. They call a meeting with Reginald and demand that he and Camille hand Stuart over. But the Stouts, having grown to care for him, reveal the truth and Reginald orders him to escape before the cats find him. He does so after saying goodbye to his “fake parents”. Meanwhile, the Littles decide to place “missing” posters around the city to get help in finding him. While going through Central Park, he is ambushed by Smokey and a few cats. He manages to evade them by driving his car into the sewer, but he loses both the car and his luggage while escaping the storm drain. Eventually, he finds his way home just as the Littles leave to hang the posters. The only one home is Snowbell, and he tells him a lie about how they are enjoying life without him, and shows him the family picture with his face cut out (they had actually removed it to provide one for the missing posters). He leaves again. However, Snowbell sees the pain his absence has caused and realises his selfishness.
Discovering Stuart’s location from Monty and the other cats, who intend to eat him, Snowbell heads to Central Park and finds him sitting alone in a bird’s nest. Snowbell, however, turns on the other cats and escapes with him, admitting his lie to him and that the Littles actually do love him, he is in fact the only one who hates him. The cats catch up with them and Snowbell attempts to convince Smokey to call off the hit on Stuart, but is refused. Instead, he orders the cats to kill them both. Stuart responds by taking off Snowbell’s collar and using it to lure them.
The cats give chase, and eventually corner Stuart hanging from a tree branch. They group together on a lower one to catch him, but Snowbell breaks it at the last minute and sends them into the water below. Smokey sneaks up behind Snowbell and is about to kill him when Stuart releases a thin branch that hits him in the face and knocks him into the water. Enraged and humiliated, he walks off, only to be attacked by dogs upon turning a corner. Monty and the other cats also climb out of the water, whimpering and embarrassed. Snowbell and Stuart walk home and he shares a warm reunion with his family, telling them that Snowbell helped him get there. The Littles bring them inside and close the windows, ready for
A term the movie industry tends to use a lot, mostly when it comes to family flicks, is “movie with heart”. Well, there is no better example of this than Stuart Little! I have never been fortunate enough to view a film that really makes you feel for the central character, except maybe a few of those Pixar films, but I tend to have high expectations for those.
So, what did I like?
Story. More often than not, today’s films choose to forget good storytelling in favor of any and everything else. This film does the opposite. Yes, it has a little CG mouse as its star, but, unlike other films that stick a CG character in the “real” world, they don’t focus on how he’s different, but rather just stick to him being a normal orphan. Yes, they touch on his being a mouse here and there, but that really is a side note to the major plot line of Stuart wanting his fairytale ending with a real family.
Age of innocence. There is just something about how innocent and sweet this story is that appeals to all ages and may very well be why this film, and more so the books, are such a success. With the exception of the rather dark turn that leads to the film’s climax, this is almost G rated sweetness.
Animation. I’m won’t say that this is the best use of CG I’ve seen, but compared to that waste of time that was Marmaduke (which was released 13 years later, btw), this shines. Stuart is very well crafted and executed and the cats don’t have that weird, creepy moving jaw that is used way too often when it comes to talking animals.
Cast. Those of you that have grown to love Hugh Laurie as the curmudgeon Dr. House on House will be shocked to see him as this loveable father here. He has great chemistry with Geena Davis, who seems at home in the colorful, dare I say retro setting. The voice casting isn’t half bad, either, led by Michael J. Fox as Stuart.
What didn’t I like?
Unnecessary plot twist and deviation from the source material. I know that this film doesn’t stick very close to the source material, so the dark tone the film takes near the end is probably the result of the director thinking this was too happy of a film. Personally, I had no issue with things going just right for Stuart. Where is it written that every film character has to be thrown a life curveball? The whole thing where the “mafia” cats hire a fake family to take Stuart away, just seemed unnecessary.
Stuart Little is one of those films that is good for all ages. It has something for everyone and will have you wanting to watch it over and over again. I wish I could say that this is a perfect film, but it isn’t. More importantly, though, it is a fun film to watch. So, give it a look-see!
4 1/2 out of 5 stars