Stuart Little 2

You have to admire a film like Stuart Little 2 which opens on a sunny New York City day and plays “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” over images of perfectly green trees in Central Park and a clear blue sky. In these hardened times, this positive image should remind viewers across the country that this is still a beautiful city, gorgeous day or otherwise. While I would not go so far as to call the film beautiful itself, it is a sweet crowd-pleaser for even the above-12 crowd.

The story shifts setting every few minutes to jump from one comical adventure to another, and in such wonderful fashion, it evokes memories of the silent classics (one of the characters even hangs from a flagpole a la Buster Keaton). Stuart Little (once again voiced by Michael J. Fox) is still having trouble fitting in. His brother George (Jonathan Lipnicki) has made a new friend and his mother (Geena Davis) is overprotective of her minuscule younger son. While traveling home from school one day, a little canary named Margalo (voiced by Melanie Griffith) drops into Stuart’s mini-car while escaping from the villainous Falcon (voiced by James Woods, whose con-bird character is eerily reminiscent of the pimp he played in Casino) and soon she becomes part of the Little family. When Margalo suddenly disappears, Stuart and his pet Snowbell the cat (voiced by the scene-stealing Nathan Lane) go on an adventure to find his flying friend.

There are simple conflicts in Stuart Little 2 because this is a simple family with simple problems. The Little family is now technically the nuclear family (aside from Stuart, who is, of course, still a mouse). Yet there is something so complicated about the difficulties of making new friends, especially for a talking mouse who lives in New York. The idea is handled smoothly, allowing the viewer to understand Stuart’s predicament and watch him get through. The film is never too cute, though. There are no wisecracks that only adults will understand, but good humor that should tickle adults and children alike. Lane gets all the great lines, including “What's wrong with giving up? And just think of the time you save!”

What nearly kills me and my otherwise entirely favorable view of this film is a scene that features the most embarrassingly blatant product placing I have ever seen. Early on, as Stuart and his brother assemble a radio-controlled airplane, George’s new friend comes over to play. “Play,” as in Playstation 2, or “PS2” as the young consumers put it. Now, I know Sony is perhaps the most greedy organization in the game, as you can find out from the muckraking insider book “Hit & Run,” by Nancy Griffin and Kim Masters, but why make it so obvious? This also marks the second time that the media giant has forced its product into a family-oriented sequel (a space-ship control mysteriously bared a resemblance to a “PS2” controller in Men in Black II).

Even so, that is not enough to hinder my absolute enjoyment of this film. Stuart Little 2 opens by showing us the perfect family waking up on that beautiful morning, like something out of a “Folgers” coffee commercial played around Christmastime. This type of image has been clouded behind a smog of trendy cynicism. It can be a reality, not just a fantasy. Don’t let these hardened times make you think otherwise.