Stuart Little review

Successful kiddie films succeed by managing to please everyone all the time - - which means the parents as well as the poopy rugrats. So since Pokémon will always be an indecipherable montage of epilepsy-inducing images for anyone over 10 years old, it's a desperate parent who'll sit through it in joyless silence while their offspring go wild. On the other hand, your Babes and Lion Kings have enough adult in-jokes that they're worth hiring the babysitters for another viewing without a small voice whining: ""Why's he doing that?"" all through it.

Stuart Little is almost - - but not quite - - in the realms of broad spectrum entertainment, as, although the script's sharp and the actors are funny, it's just a little bit too twee to match Babe's adult-pleasing slickness. So although you certainly won't feel stupid turning up to a screening without a sprog in tow, chances are that the pure-as-snow Little clan will cause you to gag once or twice.

Heading the bright-as-a-button brigade is Geena Davis as Mrs Little, three and a half acres of gleaming smile fronting a Stepford Wife soccer mom. Less in the frame is Hugh Laurie as Mr Little, a well-meaning tweed suit who's obviously pretty pleased that he's poking Geena. And, providing the cutesy core of the family is George Little, played by Jonathan Lipnicki, a child actor who's clearly been kept on growth-inhibiting steroids since Jerry Maguire.

As pukey-nice as this lot are, they're thankfully bit players to the animals, especially family pet Snowbell (voiced by Nathan Lane), who simply can't believe he can't eat Stuart now that the rodent's one of the family. Unencumbered by such qualms is Chazz Palminteri's Smokey, who heads a hit squad of alley cats employed by Snowbell to indulge in mousicide. Will the malicious moggy realise where his loyalties lie before Stuart squeaks his last?

But the true star is Stuart, a seamless blend of photorealistic CGI animation and Michael J Fox. Without fast editing or shaky camera work to mask any dodgy effects, he's got to be good enough to stand up to the scrutiny of long, lingering close-ups, and is required to laugh and cry his way through the full range of mouse-emotions. And in both these respects, he's a success: his fur moves like fur, his clothing moves like fabric and he out-shines, out-acts and out-empathises every other character in the movie. Within a few minutes, it's easy to forget that he and his mousey pals are just a supercomputer's dream and it's a pleasure to sit back and watch them act their little digital hearts out. When the movie history books are written, Jar Jar Binks might go down as the world's first computer character, but Stuart Little will rightfully be credited as the first true CG actor.

A lightweight and over-sentimental story makes this more suited for kids, but a series of excellent set-pieces and tremendously funny animal characterisations make it good fun for all ages. Mickey sucks. There's a new mouse to coo over: his name's Stuart Little.

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