R cvit‘w 0f the Week
Movie: Stuart Little (G. 85 minutes. on
Movie: Selkie (G. 88 minutes, on general
Movie: The Iron Giant (PG, 85 minutes, on
HEIR most prominent feature is
usually their G rating, although
they're also likely to be
adaptations of well-known
children's stories. Moreover.
they’re likely to feature animals that talk.
or the young of various species trying to
find their way home, or adventures whose .
youthful participants are a little older and
a lot wiser by the end. These are the
school holiday ﬁlms, the ones aimed at
the under- 103, the kind you’ll rarely be
able to find at any other time of the year.
This Easter. there are four on offer -
the three listed above and one that wasn't
available for preview, The Tiger Movie,
another animated Disney offering that
borrows from AA. Milne's popular Winnie
the Pooh stories.
Adapted from E.B. White's 1945 story
(which was written seven years earlier
than the same author's better-known
Charlotte's Web). Stuart Little offers a new
spin on Tom and leny.
it's an engagln mix of live action and
digital animation eaturing a handful of
wise-cracldng creatures, a throwaway ‘
supporting cast of humans and a wacky
plot in which a New York couple named
Little (played by Geena Davis and Hugh
Laurie) a opt a mouse named Stuart .
(voiced by Michael 1. Fox), leaving their
son (Jonathan Lipnicki, from leny
Maguire) understandably bewildered and
their cat Snowbell (Nathan Lane)
extremely miffed. Strangely. nobody else
seems to notice that there's anrhing at all
unusual about the Little house old.
I' . [NM 081
Directed by Rob Minkoff and written
by Greg Brooker and M. N ight Shyamalan
(the writer-director responsible for The
Sixth Sense), the ﬁlm progresses smoothly
enough to its inevitable “let's go home”
ending. The voices bestowed upon the
animals are just right (Chazz Palminteri
and Steve Zahn are a lot of fun as a couple
of alley cats), and the precision of the lip-
synching iseven likely to leave some of its
target audience wondering why the
critters at home aren't quite as talkative as
the ones on the screen.
But the technological wizardry and the
one-liners aren't enough to carry Stuart
Little and it lacks the kind of wit and
energy that made the old-fashioned.
hand-crafted animations of the Tom and
leny series so memorable.
Still, it’s vastly superior to the
disappointing Selkie, which draws upon
the same Celtic legend that fuelled Iohn
Sayles's fable-like 1994 film The Secret of
Roan lnish. Its combination of teen
romance, fairytale and coming-of-age
story might have worked much better had
more time been spent on the script and if
veteran Australian director Don Crombie
( (kiddie, The Irishman, The K iliing of
Angel Street) had managed to extract more
convincing performances from his
younger cast members (only Chelsea
Bruland as Samantha seems at ease with
what's required of her).
Set on a picturesque island off the
coast of South Australia, the ﬁlm traces
the identity crisis that a 16-year-old boy
(Shimon Moore) has to deal with after he
discovers that he is a descendant of the
selkies. On land, these creatures are just
like anyone else (aside from the webbing
on their hands, apparently); in the water,
however, they're transformed into seals.
But aside from providing the ﬁlm-
makers with the opportunity to use some
morphing technology, this is a sea change
notably lacking in poetry or a sense of
wonder. Only in the performance of the
bouncy song behind the closing credits is
there any sign of life.
The best of this batch of holiday ﬁlms
is The Iron Giant. Brad Bird’s skilful
combination of traditional animation and
computer-generated imagery adapted
from a children’s story by the late Ted
Hughes. First published in 1968, the then
Poet Laureate Hughes’s simple tale about
a robot and a little boy was turned into a
“concept album" of songs by The Who’s
Pete l‘ownshend in 1989 and then
performed on the London stage in 1993.
Townshend is also executive producer on
the ﬁlm. which has transferred the action
from England to '503 America (apparently
with Hughes's approval).
Knowingly reminiscent of the
invading-alien films that dominated
science ﬁction in the 19503 and of the
classic tale of Frankenstein's monster.
The Iron Giant sets its story in an America a
in danger of self-destructing because of
its fears of the unknown. Into this world
steps the giant (voiced by Vin Diesel).
who is taught by his new friend, young
Hogarth (Eli Marienthal), to channel his
frightening powers for good rather than
for destruction. while a busy-body
government agent/bad-father ﬁgure
(Christopher McDonald) seems
determined to wreak havoc.
A caution: the rating is PG and some
pre-schoolers at the review I attended
were distressed by w at the nasty army
people were threatening to do to the giant
. and the surrogate family unit that ha
grown up around him.