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Stuart Little (1999)



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The Trumpet of the Swan was my favorite book as a kid, and I loved Charlotte's Web, too. But I never got as enthusiastic about E. B. White's other children's book, Stuart Little. Even as a kid, the premise of Stuart Little was weird and wrong. Human parents do not have mice as children. I couldn't figure out how it worked, and as much as I was able to suspend disbelief for dozens of frankly more fantastic children's stories, the world of Stuart Little never gelled for me. In fact, when I read the book, I found it easier to imagine Stuart as a mouse-sized human being rather than an actual mouse, despite that the illustrations and references to a tail throwing me now and again.

This colorful filmed adaptation of Stuart Little is slightly less creepy in that it establishes Stuart as an adopted child of Mr. and Mrs. Little. But there is still an aspect to the whole thing that's vaguely disturbing. A human being is a human being. A mouse is a mouse. One is not supposed to make sticking points out of things like this in children's stories, but I still say there's something fundamentally wrong with the premise of a mouse given equal standing in a human family.

But I'll put aside these personal hang-ups, now that I've aired them.

The film has its moments. I liked the boat racing scene, where Stuart helms a remote control sailboat after the remote controller has broken. And I liked a moment when the Little's cat, Snowbell, struggles to keep a nosy feline friend of his from finding out he has a mouse for a master. But in between these funny and fanciful scenes are others of needless melodrama. There is no need, for example, of a subplot about Stuart's real parents; there's too much excess sentiment when the time would be better spent on the more adventuresome aspects of the story.

Still, little in this film is outright bad, and I can well imagine kids being enchanted by it. It's not a bad way to spend an hour and a half. A better way, however, would be to read the first chapters of The Trumpet of the Swan.

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