As Stuart--the adorable white mouse adopted by the very accepting Little clan in the first film--contends with the overprotective eye of his human mom Eleanor (Geena Davis) as he tries out for the soccer team he also has to contend with the fact that big brother George (Jonathan Lipnicki) is making his own friends outside the Little household. Feeling lonely and misadjusted Stuart takes the advice of his father Frederick (Hugh Laurie) and searches for a new friend of his own. His wishes are granted when the fluttery canary Margalo (voiced by Melanie Griffith) literally drops into his life--and his toy sports car. Stuart helps save her from her evil pursuer the sharp-taloned Falcon (voiced by James Woods). The Littles invite Margalo into their home to recuperate and she and Stuart develop a tight bond--a bond that's tested during an expected turn of events that sends Stuart and his unlikely ally Snowbelle the cat (voiced by Nathan Lane) into New York City on a mission to find the missing Margalo.
Like the first film Stuart Little 2 again proves that clever character design combined with exquisite--but not showy--CGI animation can make a computer-generated character appear as real on screen as any flesh-and-blood actor. And the Main Mouse also has the advantage of being voiced by the wily Fox who invests Stuart with incredibly convincing charm pluck and emotion. His vocal performance is easily the heart and soul of the film matched only by the sardonic delivery of Lane who as Snowbelle gamely turns even the most obvious kitty cliché into a tart comic gem. All of the other CGI characters demonstrate a similar lifelike quality and Griffith's little-girl voice is used to its best advantage for perhaps the first time in her career (although she still always sounds a bit dazed). Woods is as sharp and slick as you'd expect yet his performance is several levels below his brilliant turn as Hades in Disney's Hercules. Meanwhile real-life actors Davis and Laurie continue to have fun with the Littles as a sort of post-modern Ward and June Cleaver adding a playful semi-erotic subtext this time around (it'll fly over the heads of the tykes in the audience) and Lipnicki turns in what might be his last "cute kid" role before hitting puberty.
Because director Rob Minkoff so clearly believes in the possibility of making Stuart come completely alive for an audience of both tots and their parents this movie is full of the confident visual snap of the first film be it in the cozy scenes in the Littles' home or in the midst of the ambitious and inventive action sequences (this time around Stuart's got his own airplane for some harrowing flying scenes). It's easy to get involved in all of the movie's key sequences and root for your favorites--even snotty Snowbelle has some unpredictably heroic moments. There are just a couple things lacking in comparison to the original: first the wonderful sense of discovery when we first entered Stuart's world and saw E.B. White's delightful enduring tale come to life on the screen--a factor that's hard to avoid in a sequel. Also the emotional weight of the first flick's story isn't quite matched by Stuart's quest for friendship in this second outing; the dilemma seems a bit forced and not as organic as the mouse's first "fitting in" fears. There are also a few extra-gooey exchanges between Stuart and Margalo that even kids might find a shade too sugary to swallow--and will send adults scurrying to the popcorn concession.