2 March 2003 | Victor Field
This "Little" goes a long way.
While less isn't always more, the makers of "Stuart Little 2" resisted the temptation to pad it out from its shorthand running time, meaning it goes by quickly and painlessly. Not that the actual plot of this followup to the original charmer is hard to take in itself (Stuart is starting to feel a bit left out, and when Margalo the wren literally drops into his life he gets a new dimension).
In terms of technical levels it's only slightly easier to fault (Margalo looks a bit too cartoonish to be real, unlike Stuart Little himself and the falcon that's the movie's villain - but then again, Melanie Griffith [the voice of Margalo] always seems like a cartoon anyway), but the story by screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin and the movie's producer Douglas Wick is what makes this ultimately inferior to its predecessor; what helped drive "Stuart Little" was our hero's wish to be accepted by his human brother and by the cat - sneer all you want, but the family message was hard to ignore. For the sequel it's more standard - the friend who's acting out of ulterior motives at first but then turns out to be a real friend, etc. Stuart isn't so much the protagonist this time, and it hurts a little.
So the freshness is reduced, but this still isn't stale - the charm and humour of the first movie remains, Michael J. Fox and Nathan Lane are as adept as ever as Stuart and Snowbell ("This better be important." "Margalo is missing." "I'd better be more specific - I meant important to ME."), and the human Littles remain just right - loving but not without making you want to slit your own throats. HBO Family has recently aired an animated version with all the principals except Hugh Laurie absent - it'll have to go a long way to live up to the two movies. (In-joke for score fans: Alan Silvestri slips in a quote from his "Back to the Future" theme in the climax.)
But I can see why this didn't do as well at the box-office as it should have - having a soccer match plus including Gilbert O'Sullivan AND Celine Dion on the soundtrack was asking for trouble...