Mousey movie: Stuart Little 2 packs laughs for little ones

As Sony summer sequels go, Stuart Little 2 is better than Men in Black II. At least it seems better because we had such big hopes for MIBII while expectations for SL2 were more... little. Or maybe it's just the Arabic numeral.

Again the second film is shorter than the first, presumably on the rationale that a lot of exposition can be dispensed with this time around. We already know how Stuart, a mouse, was adopted by humans, Mr. (Hugh Laurie) and Mrs. Little (Geena Davis), and won the brotherly love of their older son George (Jonathan Lipnicki).

That was the first half of the first picture. The second half was Stuart endangered by a bunch of cats, rough friends of Snowbell, the Little family feline who couldn't accept being the pet of a rodent.

In Stuart Little 2 the family stuff is a given, so there's just another plot to get Stuart in and out of danger. George is neglecting Stuart for a new friend, Will (Marc John Jeffries), so Stuart (again voiced by Michael J. Fox) wishes for a new friend and gets his wish when Margalo, a bird voiced by Melanie Griffith, literally falls into his lap.

Stuart thinks he's saving her from the clutches of the evil Falcon (James Woods' voice, which is scary no matter what creature it's coming out of), but Margalo and Falcon are actually in cahoots to rob the Littles. Now, she's not really such a bad bird, more a victim of circumstance, and Stuart's sweet openness makes her regret the error of her ways. But it will take more than regret to get Mrs. Little's engagement ring back from Falcon.

The storyline has changed less than other aspects of Stuart Little 2. The Littles themselves are even more cartoonlike than they were in the first film, with Davis acting more like a sitcom mom than she did in her own sitcom. There aren't as many shots where Stuart interacts with live actors, so the effect is more Toy Story than Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Stuart himself has more realistic-looking fur.

Oh, the Littles have a third child now, a daughter, Martha, and the picture's main suspense comes from waiting for her to utter her first word. Instead of sailing a toy boat, Stuart flies a model airplane.

Stuart's feelings for Margalo indicate he's approaching adolescence. Mr. Little warns his wife about being overprotective: "You have to give him room to grow." Can you blame her for worrying when the mouse plays Little League soccer? He could be impaled on a cleat!

Nathan Lane is back as the voice of Snowbell, but most of his wisecracks sound like they didn't make the cut for the first film. Woods and Griffith, so good together in Another Day in Paradise, do almost as well without being seen. Griffith's presence makes SL2 seem like a junior version of Something Wild, with Woods' Falcon in Ray Liotta's part.

Grown-ups won't find a whole lot to appreciate about Stuart Little 2 other than its brevity, but at least it's a better-crafted entertainment than Hey Arnold or The Powerpuff Girls.