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Stuart Little 2

Seen: 2002.07.20   ¶   Reviewed: 2002.07.20

I ventured deep into enemy territory: A Saturday-afternoon matinée of a children’s movie. I had expected it to be stupid; there I go with the pre-cynicism again.

Sign-in procedure for the equipment today was: Playatrix handed me the book and I filled out my name. I tried very hard not to look at the names and numbers of the predecessor users. A serious privacy concern.

The playatrix at the counter is more than happy to fish around and find me a reflector I like. Except every one of them is strewn with fingerprints. Already late, I give up, only to be faced with ten solid minutes of previews (longest ever – perhaps they are making up for absent commercials). I could have haggled further, and should have, because the smudges were constantly noticeable. I also scored the dead-centre seat again, and absolutely nobody cared or noticed that I had all the special gear. Absolutely nobody. What does this mean?

The picture is a total surprise. It’s intended for kids, but is not actually juvenile or stupid at any point. The humans all seemed to be solid and unironic in their roles. (Exception: Is the Indic cabdriver a stereotype or simply a funny performance?) Geena Davis, whom every invert adores, was just a hair on this side of ironic, but all I kept thinking was “There is such a thing as innocent, uncomplicated acting by bosomy intermediate-level movie stars.” Good child actor (Jonathan Lipnicki as George, still essentially rehashing Jerry Maguire, but just how thoroughly does H.J. Osment “reinvent” himself with each role?). Plausible quasi-romantic friendship between Stuart and Margalo, and handled quite touchingly and affirmingly at the end.

Character voices tended toward schtick. With the cats, anyway, who were refreshingly caustic. Who would have thought James Woods’ operatic talents encompass both Vampires and Stuart Little? (KRUSTY: You’ve got to give me the part of Krispy the Klown! DIRECTOR: I’m sorry. You’re wrong for the part. KRUSTY: But look at my range!)

What is not to like? Huh? Huh?

There is such a thing as a massively complex live-action/animated production that succeeds as an uncomplicated picture. I would adjudge that an achievement.

Can you believe I enjoyed Stuart Little a dozen times more than Men in Black? Well, I barely can.

But just one thing, please: How can George and his mom both ring up George’s little friend at the same time from the same house without two separate phone lines?

Caption quality

The usual problems.

(feigned sneeze): Nice. And later, (forced laugh). Not the same thing. And no, deaf kids are certainly not going to be able to understand the phrase “feigned sneeze.” It was decided long ago that children’s programming would be captioned as if it were adult programming unless concerted, rule-governed efforts were made to simplify dialogue, as has always been the case on Sesame Street and is currently the case in the C2 parallel caption stream on Arthur.

The Sony PS2 is a PS2 and not a PS-2 (or a PS/2, as I had thought – Cf. a Sony press release).

I promised myself, to treat myself: No comma, please.

Hi, there: No comma, please. Later: Hello there! (done correctly).

I would say that the gender of the voices of the non-human characters (chiefly the cats) should have been specified.

-(call-waiting beeps) should be either -(call waiting beeps), a verb phrase, or -(call-waiting beep), a noun phrase. Call waiting is not, in fact, “call-waiting.”

I came for my friend, Margalo: No comma. Stuart is not addressing Margalo. He means “Margalo is my friend and I’ve come for her.”

Eh, this kid is priceless: Eh rhymes with play. Ehh is the verbal shrug that rhymes with feh. They’re different words, like of and off.

While Stuart is fixing his æroplane, an inspiring musical accompaniment plays loudly. The offscreen hammering and sawing is not captioned. There was time to do it.

OK, now we see the errors in the Caption Center’s use of dashes, which, as I warned months ago, they really don’t have a handle on. (No one does, completely, but Captions, Inc. comes closest.) Actual sample:

-You made it!

Here is the Captions, Inc. way:

- [ Stuart ]  You made it !
- Oh !

Note spurious spaces.

The better way to do it according to MoPix motifs is to use two onscreen blocks:

You made it!          Oh!

Captioneers have learned how to caption foreground and background singing within the simplistic MoPix display system (using centre and then left placement and a CHORUS: ID).

Description quality

Two shocks in the same week! It’s another narratrix – not Miles Neff and not Pat Lentz from Road to Perdition! She’s credited at the end as Gaille Heidemann. She has just the tiniest bit of a “kooky” voice, like Jennifer Tilly’s.

“It’s Mr. and Mrs. Little!” we are told long before they are identified. And why not? It’s a sequel.

The usual repetition of DVS catchwords (gapes, gazes). Here it’s bolt: “and bolts”; “They bolt from the bedroom and race down the stairs.”

“The crowd does the wave”: A wee explanation, perhaps?

Is Geena Davis’s tight blouse really a “bodice”? A tad Victorian, isn’t that?

It isn’t mentioned that Margalo actually has Mrs. Little’s ring. It’s significant.

“Stuart tosses it across the rubbage”: Portmanteau word, shurely?! (Did you mean rubbish or garbage?)


No worries.

Exit interview

On entry, the manager on duty was the same fellow I’d talked to after Road to Perdition. But when I asked to speak to the manager on the way out, it turned out to be a manageress.

We reviewed the sign-in procedure. She believed the current correct system was “Guest signs in.” And by coincidence, it was – on this day. I explained that blind people cannot necessarily sign themselves in, and that the Scarborough method (using loose leaf in a binder) avoids the privacy issue. She replied that the current system is by order of head office.

I made yet another request to ensure the reflectors are clear of fingerprints. She claimed that playaz have more on their plates than is apparent. Also, not every playa gets Guest Services training.

So why not add the task to the opening or closing checklist, then? Because those checklists are already four pages long. This hardly convinced me.

I told her this was the third time I’d complained about fingerprints on panels. I impressed upon her the point that she must escalate the issue until an actual policy is in place. If it happens again, I’ll bring it up to the cinema manager, I told her.

She said “OK” and walked smartly away.

Let’s think about this rationally for a moment. The huge mass of reflectors have to be cleaned all together only once. Thereafter, all you have to do is clean the reflectors as they come back in, one or two at a time – clearly within the capacities of the large staff puttering around between shows.

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