The Little family is looking for a new member for their New York household – a brother for young George. But the boy they bring home looks a lot like a mouse. Indeed, Stuart (voiced by Michael J. Fox) is a mouse. While Mr. & Mrs. Little (Hugh Laurie and Geena Davis) fall in love with Stuart immediately, George isn’t sure what to make of his new smaller brother. The family’s cat (voiced by Nathan Lane) is none too pleased to be this mouse’s pet, and so devises a plan to get Stuart out of the house. Stuart Little is a fun "take" with cameos by more memorable actors than you can shake a cat at. Directed by Rob Minkoff, the co-director of The Lion King, Stuart Little is based on the children’s book by E.B White, author of other memorable fables such as Charlotte’s Web. With Oscar-nominated special effects, this is a non-stop adventure that will keep everyone in the family entertained.
Columbia Tristar’s reputation for excellent video transfers is reaffirmed with Stuart Little. In fact, it’s almost perfect. Gorgeous rich colors are complemented by rock-solid black levels and fantastic shadow detail. Brightness is set well, and flesh tones are accurate. The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is free from any compression or NTSC artifacts. Film grain and chroma noise is virtually non-existent. I couldn’t find a single spec of black or white lint – this is truly reference quality material. From Stuart’s whiskers to the rigging on the model boat Wasp, this transfer is outstanding in all regards. Animated scene selection screens preview each of the 28 chapters, while the DVD holds 7.1 gigabytes of data. Though the disc is dual layered, I was unable to detect any layer change. English subtitles and Closed Captioning are available.
Although this is a "family" film, there’s plenty of opportunity for the 6-channel soundtrack to do its stuff. Various action sequences make good use of the rear effect channels, though don’t expect an overly active mix. Alan Silvestri’s orchestral score comes through from all speakers crisp and clear with good bass and range. Dialogue is excellent with no clipping or unwanted background noise. The 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack will not be auto-detected by players with that feature, but can at least be changed on the fly. One interesting note is that there are a total of five full-length audio tracks on this disc – 2.0 surround, 5.1 regular, a 5.1 isolated music score, commentary with director Rob Minkoff and Animation Supervisor Henry Anderson, and yet another commentary track with visual effects supervisors John Dykstra and Jerome Chen. Both of these commentary tracks will give you more hard information on the movie than any number of documentaries, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything else to look at on this disc.
Far from it! Stuart Little’s impressive special features are all accessible from pleasant, family-friendly animated menus with full sound. Unlike some menu systems that soon become tedious, Stuart’s are cute – and short – enough not to be annoying. In the trivia-based game Stuart’s Central Park Adventure, players must answer movie-related questions in one of three difficulty levels. Interspersed throughout the game are full-screen clips from the movie. Unfortunately there is no reward for actually getting everything correct. Another family-oriented extra is the full read-along story, which can be played with or without narration by Michael J. Fox.
The "Visual Effects Interactive Featurette" takes six scenes from the movie and, in numerous step-by-step video clips, shows how certain computer-generated character effects were accomplished, from underlying facial muscles to realistic matting hair. A scrapbook feature includes numerous concept artwork screens. The "Basement Treasures" section starts off with animator’s screen tests. For a regular job you hand in a resume. For Stuart Little prospective animators were given a Stuart model and certain objects in a closed environment to work with, to demonstrate everything they can do. Six deleted scenes are available in a high-quality widescreen presentation and can be played with the director’s commentary. A special 8-minute reel with storyboards of an early concept of the boat race is accompanied by the director’s commentary. This section completes with two gag reels – a short one for animated characters plus a 3 minute one for actors.
There’s the 22-minute HBO special "Making It Big", which I found it to be more style than substance. Three Stuart-themed music videos are bundled – "If You Can’t Rock Me" by the Brian Setzer Orchestra, "You’re Where I Belong" by Trisha Yearwood and "I Need to Know" by R Angels. There’s one theatrical trailer for Stuart Little in full-screen video and six-channel sound, plus five others for the family films "Muppets From Space", "Baby Geniuses", "Madeline", "The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland" and "The Nuttiest Nutcracker". Standalone extras complete with the now-traditional biographies and filmographies. For DVD-ROM equipped PCs, there’s the original theatrical web site, other web links, and a demo from the Stuart Little CD-ROM game.
Overall, Stuart Little is a superbly crafted, fun family adventure presented on an excellent quality DVD at a very good price. Columbia Tristar is quickly moving from being simply one of the highest quality DVD producers, to also bundling the most special features. This disc is recommended.
- Reviewed by Daniel Tonks on April 27, 2000.
1-Poor 2-Fair 3-Good 4-Excellent
Sony DVP-S500D DVD Player
Sony STR-GA8ES 5.1 Receiver
Sony 32" XBR250 WEGA TV using Component
Nuance Spatial Baby Grand 3E & StarSat