Neil Young’s Film Lounge – Stuart Little
USA 1999, dir. Rob Minkoff, stars Hugh Laurie, voice of Michael J Fox
Stuart Little sets out to charm rather than astound, and as such it can be called a success, although this isn’t really one of those kids’ pictures with a massive amount in it for the over 12s.
The story itself could, in the hands of a Tim Burton or a David Lynch, come across as extremely weird – a wealthy Manhattan couple go to an adoption bureau to find a little brother for their lonely son, only to return with a talking, mouse-sized mouse who dresses in human-type clothes and reads books – but Rob Minkoff is out to entertain rather than disturb, and he handles it straight as can be, presenting the Littles as an ideal WASP family in an ideal, almost storybook version of New York.
In fact, if anything he goes too far in the opposite direction, laying on the saccharine sentiments – family is good, we mustn’t judge on appearances, we must tolerate and embrace those who are different from us – to such a degree that Randy Newman’s ever-so-slightly jaundiced songs come as a very welcome relief. There’s a kind of demented logic in casting Geena Davis, the tallest female star in Hollywood, as the adoptive mother of a five-inch mouse, and she makes the most of her one-dimensional Mrs Little, aided by Hugh Laurie who, as with Jude Law in Talented Mr Ripley, indicates the current shortage of American actors who can play American posh.
But the humans necessarily play second fiddle to the computer-augmented animals – Stuart, nimbly voiced by Michael J Fox, comes down just the right side of delightful, as do Bruno Kirby and Jennifer Tilly, as Stuart’s supposed natural parents, who are drawn into the film’s rather thin plot, involving a kidnap plan by the outraged neighbourhood cats. Nathan Lane, Steve Zahn and Chazz Palmintieri get all the best lines as the cats, and the moment where Zahn pleads entrance to the Little’s kitchen window with a plaintive “pleeease,” his features distorting into a mask of wheedling feline supplication, is worth the price of admission alone.
by Neil Young