No small feat

Rated 4.0 In what is this summer’s most pleasant surprise, Stuart Little 2 not only lives up to its tag line, in that a little does go a long way, but is actually that rare bird, the sequel that outshines its predecessor.

E. B. White’s anthropomorphic rodent is back but feeling a bit out of sorts. Big brother is spending more time with friends, and Mother Little (Geena Davis) refuses to acknowledge that Stuart is a growing … uh, mouse. A little adventure is what is needed, which fortuitously falls into his furry li’l lap in the form of an injured cutie bird on the wing from a pursuing falcon.

Interspecies lust ensues, but alas, in an Oliver Twist, it turns out that Margala is actually a femme fatale working in cohoots with the aforementioned vile predator, casing the little joint for baubles. Of course, Margala’s larcenous little heart melts for the mouse, and before you know it fur and feathers fly in an exhilarating aerial duel between Stuart and the falcon. As a card-carrying crank, this will probably cost me a demerit, but I’ll venture to say that Stuart Little 2 is the best family offering of the year.

With subtly wrought cartoonish performances turned in by the live actors, bright ‘toonish color schemes, meticulous attention to the whisker-fine details and note-perfect vocal work provided by Michael J. Fox (Stuart), Melanie Griffith (a baby doll voice perfect for Margala), Nathan Lane as the effete family cat Snowball, and James Woods as the villainous falcon, it provides a seamless marriage of CGI and live action.

Stuart Little 2 is a rarity in that it avoids the pitfalls of “family” entertainment, and while it does occasionally pander to the wee ones’ appreciation for potty humor, it does so without being gross or condescending. And remembering that someone has to chaperone the kids, SL2 packs enough subtle film references that adults will never be tempted to check their watches.