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VHS Tape Format. 85 minutes, color. Attractive clamshell packaging. This live-action, partially animated film has a lot going for it. How about Stuart in the voice of Michael J. Fox? How about some parents played by Geena Davis and an actor who's come a long way from this film, Hugh Laurie? Snowbell the cat is in the voice of Nathan Lane, and most surprising of all, is the screenplay, co-written by M. Night Shyamalam.
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This live-action version of E.B. White's novel doesn't have quite the magic of, say, Toy Story. Instead of entertainment the whole family can be enthralled with, Stuart Little is squarely aimed, and successfully so, at the 4- to 10-year-old watcher. Does this make it a bad family film? Not in the slightest. The gee-whiz visual effects (created by original Star Wars wizard John Dykstra) and the film's ebullient wholesomeness make this a welcome addition to the home library.
In E.B. White's world, it's hardly surprising that human parents would adopt "outside their species." The smooth-talking mouse Stuart (voiced by Michael J. Fox) seems the perfect new child for parents Geena Davis and Hugh Laurie, especially with an adorable wardrobe of very small sweaters and pants. Harder is fitting in with the Little's family cat, Snowbell (voiced by Nathan Lane, who also deftly voiced Timon in director Rob Minkoff's last feature, The Lion King). The simple story deals with Stuart trying to fit in with his new life, including big brother George (Jerry Maguire's scene-stealing Jonathan Lipnicki). And of course there's an adventure when Snowbell's schemes lead Stuart into true danger, in the form of the devious plans of an alley cat named Smokey (voiced by Chazz Palminteri). Brisk--85 minutes--amusing, and tolerably cute, Stuart Little stands tall. Two curios: The effects are so cleanly done that we could call Stuart the first successfully computer-animated actor, and the screenplay was cowritten by M. Night Shyamalan, who made bigger waves in 1999 writing and directing The Sixth Sense. --Doug Thomas
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