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Movie Review

Two years after the events of the first film, we find Stuart—that adorable, adopted field mouse created by author E.B. White—fully acclimated into the pristine Little clan. He even attends school and plays on the same pee-wee soccer team as his bespectacled brother, George. The Littles have added a baby daughter, making Stuart a "middle child" who yearns for adventure and feels suffocated by his loving, if somewhat overprotective, human mom who lives in constant fear that the rodent’s severe height disadvantage will lead to an untimely squishing (can anyone blame her?). Consequently, Stuart feels restless and lonely.

While driving on the sidewalks of New York City in his tiny red convertible, Stuart has an encounter with a songbird named Margalo whom he rescues from a marauding falcon. The two become pint-sized pals. But there’s more to this tweety sweetie than meets the eye. Rather than fleeing the evil falcon, it seems Margalo is a con-bird in cahoots with the bird of prey sent to infiltrate and rob the Little home. The more time she spends with the Littles, the more her loyalties are tested and shaped for the better. Conflicts arise, leading to high-speed chases, aerial adventures and wonderful moral lessons about honesty, optimism, boldly pursuing one’s dreams and the value of family.

positive elements: This movie is brimming with innocence and positive themes. It opens with the pro-social pop hit "Put a Little Love in Your Heart." Mr. and Mrs. Little are loving, patient, affectionate, trusting and supportive parents esteemed by their children. Sensing Stuart’s disappointment when things aren’t going well, Mr. Little tells him that "every cloud has a silver lining," and to remain positive ("Keep your chin up, your back straight and your heart open"). It’s a theme woven throughout the tale as Stuart, whenever he’s down or in trouble, recalls that sage advice and finds answers to his problems. Stuart extends hospitality to a lost, hurting soul. Feeling small and insignificant, he learns from Margalo, "The way I see it, you’re as big as you feel." He reminds her of her words later when she has a similar crisis of confidence. The two critters put themselves at risk to come to each other’s rescue several times, and she refuses to bail on him when the going gets tough. The human Littles race to find Stuart when he’s in a jam, and even the family’s self-serving housecat, Snowbell, lends a paw in a time of need. Margalo’s dream of migrating as a free bird only comes true when she takes a bold step into the unknown. To retrieve a cherished ring for his Mom, Stuart is willing to descend into the frightening bowels of the kitchen sink. Scenes address loving someone enough to give them their wings, and point out that merely facing the challenges of the day is a worthwhile adventure.

While parents may initially bristle at the lies George and Stuart spin to cover for one another’s absences, the film soon makes it clear that such dishonesty is wrong. "It’s never okay to lie to your parents," insists Mr. Little, who assures George that he is in big trouble. George’s buddy Will, drawn into the ruse in a moment of weakness, is told that he’s smart enough to come up with a believable story, to which he replies, "If I was smart, I wouldn’t be in this situation." Will suggests that the only reason George’s mom is so gullible is that George has a long track record of honesty, indicating that his behavior is a rare exception. The tangled web of deceit gets messier and more difficult to preserve, leaving the kids to wonder if it wouldn’t have been a lot easier just to tell the truth.

spiritual content: Snowbell makes reference to Moses and the burning bush (Exodus 3). Trapped in the cockpit of a runaway model plane, Stuart buzzes a group of nuns, one of whom crosses herself in an act of self-defense.

sexual content: None.

violent content: A kid gets the wind knocked out of him by a soccer ball and another player has a shot ricochet off of his head. Monty, Snowbell’s alley-cat acquaintance, describes the violent death awaiting those who cross the falcon. Chases, tense moments and close calls include various characters falling from extreme heights. Stuart wields a tiny bow and arrow as he confronts the falcon. The duo’s final showdown ends when the bird collides head-on with Stuart’s airplane and plummets to earth where he lands (presumably alive, but beaten up) in a trash can.

crude or profane language: Several uses of the word "poop."

drug and alcohol content: None.

conclusion: Stuart Little 2 is without a doubt the best family film so far this year. Not only for its wholesome themes, but because it managed to avoid the one problem so many parents of young children had with the first Stuart Little: mild profanity. This sequel is clean, smart, charming and technically exquisite. The effects crew has done another amazing job of integrating computer-generated characters into the real world with seamless precision. Why this delightful film got a PG rating I really can’t imagine. The press materials say the reason is "brief mild language." I didn't hear any unless you include the word "poop." And that's a small price to pay for a wealth of moral content that will leave children challenged as well as thoroughly entertained.

NOTE: The feature is preceded by a computer-animated short called The ChubbChubbs, in which a klutzy alien with dreams of singing karaoke earns respect from his interplanetary peers the hard way. There’s some cartoonish violence (moments of actual carnage are merely implied), but this clever bonus flick scores big when it takes jabs at sci-fi icons ranging from Jar Jar Binks and E.T., to classic movie robots and H.R. Geiger’s Alien. Parents concerned that some conflict may be a bit intense for very young children can use this brief warm-up act as a chance to visit the concession stand.

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Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

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Plot Summary

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Profanity/Violence

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Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

PG

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Author

Cast

Geena Davis as Mrs. Little; Hugh Laurie as Mr. Little; Jonathan Lipnicki as George Little; as well as the voices of Michael J. Fox as Stuart Little; Nathan Lane as Snowbell; Melanie Griffith as Margalo; James Woods as Falcon; Steve Zahn as Monty

Distributor

Columbia Pictures

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In Theaters

On Video

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Awards

Reviewer

Bob Smithouser

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