'Stuart Little 2' similar to original

I was all set to complain about how "Stuart Little 2" is exactly like the first movie when it occurred to me that that's what young "Stuart" fans want: a bedtime story that's as comforting and familiar as the bedtime story they read last night.

The first movie was adorable, with an exceptional vocal performance by Michael J. Fox as Stuart, a white mouse whose family (Geena Davis, Hugh Laurie, Jonathon Lipnicki) treats him like a very little boy who happens to have a tail and is easily squashed. A mild streak of anarchy ran through the humor in the movie, a smart move by the scriptwriters to balance the potentially sticky-sweet story about an ordinary family who becomes extraordinary.

In every department, the new movie is a blander affair. All of the people who were in the first movie are back, along with many of the behind-the-scenes people and, not surprisingly, they've made exactly the same movie. There are still scenes of Stuart adapting human conveniences to his own needs, of him and Snowball the cat (Nathan Lane, who has all the best lines this time) making an uneasy, interspecies peace and of the Little family taking everything in stride, as if it makes perfect sense to have a soccer-playing "child" who could easily fit inside most of the real kids' Nikes.

"Stuart Little 2" is performed and shot with flair. Fox is still disarmingly sweet without being a drip. But what's missing is the surprise, the sense of discovery. Just as in this month's "Men in Black II," we get reheated material that was delicious the first time but has a little taste of Tupperware the second time out.


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