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FEBRUARY 7, 1999 VOL. 155 NO. 5

Columbia Tristar

Extra Cheese
And sugar, too, in the big-screen adaptation of Stuart Little
Film review by STEPHEN SHORT

Stuart Little is a seemingly daft movie about a middle-aged Manhattan couple, the Littles (Geena Davis and Hugh Laurie), who promise their son Jonathan Lipnicki (the bespectacled son in Jerry Maguire) an adopted brother as a present for his birthday. They go to an agency and return with a mouse they decide to call Stuart. He's a mouse who talks, sits at the dinner table with the family, wears Tommy Hilfiger and teases the family cat Snowball (who also happens to talk, though not with the flesh-and-blood adults, as Stuart does). Says Snowball, his nemesis, "They go for a son and come back with a mouse. I need a drink."

Q&A: Rob Minkoff
TIME's online-only interview with the director Stuart Little

The Kids Are All Right
Zhang Yimou says working with young amateur actors suits him perfectly (1/10/2000)
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Hong Kong superstar Chow Yun-fat, fresh from filming Anna and the King, says working in front of the camera keeps him alive (12/27/99)

Back to China
In the martial-arts drama Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Ang Lee and a cast of big stars struggle with moviemaking on the mainland (11/29/99)

Showbiz Asia: the latest on Asian music, films and books

It's a right little oddity of a movie and a right little cracker it turns out to be. Taken from E.B. White's eponymous book, director Rob Minkoff handles all the conceit with fair dexterity and presents a far better kid/adult cross-audience movie than DreamWorks' "Prince of Eygpt" ever did. There's nothing new about a mouse in animation--Mickey holds that copyright. But Mickey was never transplanted into an adult world with "real" people. Technology allows Stuart to be planted there, and the synergy between animation and animated actors leaves the likes of Roger Rabbit looking prehistoric.

The film relies on the fact that neither the Littles, their neighbors, nor the viewer see a mouse when they look at Stuart, but another living creature who is smart, kind and very alone. They manage to ignore their differences, and Stuart's presence shows the people how to live without prejudice. It's a candy-covered, thumb-suckingly sweet message, delivered by something 7 cm tall. It certainly helps that he's got Michael J. Fox's infectious voice going for him.

Davis, Laurie and Lipnicki are ideally cast--that is, blander than bland. Their idea of substance abuse would be a tall skinny double-shot latté. The film's sinister overtones--or should that be undertones--come from Snowball and his not-so-fellow cats. And these are real cats, not animation. They're all given Godfather-like voices and plot to get rid of Stuart. That the mouse doesn't wake up with a horse's head in its bed is thanks to Snowball, who sees the error of his ways and comes to the mouse's rescue. Lipnicki, too, is at first dismissive of his adopted "brother" but then realizes that Stuart's stature and physical appearance count for nothing. But of course.

It's all great looking stuff, right down to the models of Manhattan and Central Park. Little film, big heart--did someone say daft?

(Stuart Little has opened in Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea. It opens in Taiwan Feb. 5, the Philippines Feb. 9, Indonesia March 10, Thailand March 17, Hong Kong April 20, India April 28 and Japan July 31. These release dates are subject to change without notice.)

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