Stuart Little appears in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was an inconsistent presentation.
Sharpness generally came across as good, but it showed some variations. At times, the movie appeared more than a little soft and fuzzy. A lot of this seemed to stem from the film’s effects shots, and these added a fair amount of grain as well.
I would totally blame technical challenges for the softness and excessive grain, but they popped up in too many shots that seemed to have nothing to do with effects. While those could offer the movie’s most attractive scenes, they could also be indistinct. General definition remained fine, but a lot of variation occurred.
I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and I saw no edge haloes. Source flaws weren’t a factor. Other than the occasionally heavy grain, this was a clean film.
Colors continued the ups and downs. The movie went with a broad palette that could look quite good. However, at times the hues came across as somewhat heavy, and flesh tones could look a little pinkish.
Black levels were reasonably deep and dense, while shadow detail was another inconsistent point. Some low-light shots were clear, while others looked a bit dark and faded. I thought the movie had enough strengths to still get a “C+”, but it was never a smooth ride.
The film's DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack seemed better than the picture, as the soundstage provided a wonderfully immersive experience. Audio appeared consistently well placed and still spatially integrated; the entire mix blended together smoothly and created an enveloping soundfield.
The surrounds contributed quite a lot of aural information and they did so naturally and convincingly. From the washing machine scene to the boat race to the climactic events, the surrounds didn’t provide constant accompaniment, but they added a lot to the experience.
Sound quality appeared very good as well. Dialogue sounded largely natural and clear. The only problem I noted was that much of Stuart's speech did not match that of the human actors terribly well at times and it didn't seem as neatly integrated as it could be. Some of that may be inevitable, however, given the nature of the production. Effects were realistic and clear, plus they lacked any signs of distortion. All in all, it's a fine soundtrack that nicely supported the film.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the original DVD? Audio was a bit peppier, and visuals showed better clarity. Even though this wasn’t a great presentation, it still surpassed the DVD; the latter was strong for its format and era but looked less positive all these years later.
Many of the DVD’s extras repeat here. First we encounter two audio commentaries. Track one comes from director Rob Minkoff and animation supervisor Henry Anderson. Both men were recorded together for this running, screen-specific track. Overall, they offered a good chat that covered a variety of issues.
Given the technically complex nature of Stuart, I didn’t feel surprised that they often concentrated on those issues, and they did so well. Minkoff and Anderson nicely discussed all the challenges involved, particularly as they related to the use of Stuart and the cats. In addition, we learned a lot about story and character points, including material about the differences between the novel and the film. I enjoyed this clear and engaging track that provided a lot of solid information about the movie.
The second commentary features Senior Visual Effects Supervisor John Dykstra and Visual Effects Supervisor Jerome Chen. As one would expect, this track mainly concentrated on technical specifications. They went over the details about all of the visual effects in the film.
Since the first commentary was so inclusive, this one could be somewhat redundant. It remained enjoyable, but it seemed less necessary. It'll probably be most interesting for folks really interested in this area, as others will likely be satisfied with the discussion in the Minkoff/Anderson piece.
Six deleted scenes can be viewed with or without Minkoff’s commentary. They run a total of five minutes, 20 seconds and include “The Family Tour” (0:52), “Mr. and Mrs. Little Becoming Strangers” (0:56), “George Asleep in Stuart’s Room” (1:22), “Having Breakfast at Stout House” (0:58), “The Littles Describe Stuart to the Police” (0:45) and “Police Lineup” (0:26). These make for some interesting segments, especially “Asleep” (which shows a quick retake of a scene and provides a cool look at filmmaking) and “Stout” (which uses rough animation), but the content is nothing special.
The commentary seems pretty useless because Minkoff basically only explains the scenes, which is unnecessary; with the exception of “Describing”, he never explains why the segments were cut, which is the most basic requirement of a commentary that accompanies deleted scenes.
Two more segments feature gag reels. One - the "visual effects gag reel" - displays premeditated bloopers reminiscent of the ending of A Bug’s Life and runs for 35 seconds, while the "production gag reel" - which lasts for three minutes,32 seconds - sticks to the more typical human goof-ups. Honestly, I really hate bloopers, so the second piece is generally useless in my opinion, except it intersperses some cool looks behind the scenes of the film with things like shots of the Stuart prop used on the set. I wish I didn't have to watch all the usual misreadings of lines to get to the good stuff, but at least it's there.
The Visual Effects Interactive Featurette presents six different segments that last a total of 13 minutes, eight seconds: "The Making of a Mouse", "A Goodnight Kiss", "How A Mouse Brushes His Teeth", "Dressing Up Stuart", "Stuart Steers the Wasp", and "In Bed With Mom and Dad". All of these show different steps of effects process and include narration from members of the effects crew. It's a very unusual and effective presentation and it helps show us the steps for creating this type of film.
Next we get two minutes, 33 seconds of animators' screen tests. These are literally what they say they are: a few different animators were given Stuart, the same setting and objects and had Stuart interact with them. I guess the producers picked who they liked based on these tests. It's something I've never seen before and makes for an interesting addition.
The Boat Race Early Concept Reel offers a running presentation of storyboards for an unused version of the boat race; the boards are accompanied by commentary from Minkoff during this eight-minute, eight-second segment. It's an interesting look at this alternate possibility, which Minkoff states was discarded because it would have been prohibitively expensive. (From the sound of it, it also would have been too far from reality, but that's just my opinion.)
After this we find Making It Big, an "HBO First Look" featurette that runs for 22 minutes, four seconds. It's a pretty typical promotional program in which we see clips from the film interspersed with interview snippets and behind the scenes shots. One unusual approach taken by this program is that it occasionally pretends that Stuart's an actor; as such, we find clips of cast and crew discussing him as if he were one of them. No one seems to have let Jonathan Lipnicki in on the joke, though; he answers the interviewers off-camera questions seriously. It's a good but unspectacular piece that deserves a screening.
The Read Along presents a video storybook. The child can either read the tale on his own, or have it read to him as he follows the text. If read to the kid, the program last for three minutes, 35 seconds. Since I don't have kids, so this doesn't do much for me, but it's a great addition for parents with children in the appropriate age range. One very nice touch: Michael J. Fox - as Stuart - reads the story.
The music videos section includes three songs. We get "If You Can't Rock Me" by the Brian "I Refuse to Acknowledge That Music Has Changed In Any Way Since 1962" Setzer Orchestra. The song is Setzer's usual retro junk, but the video's more entertaining than most as it shows Stuart at a gig by the band. One interesting note: if you've learned a lot about effects-intensive movies, you'll know that whenever actors interact with objects that weren't there at the time of shooting - like Stuart - it's insanely important that they maintain the correct eye-line so it really seems as though they're looking at the correct object. If you ever doubted that this really was crucial, check out the guy who watches Stuart play the trumpet; his gaze is off, and though it's not by much, it's enough to completely kill the illusion.
The next video comes from Trisha Yearwood with the sappy ballad, "You're Where I Belong". Please God - save us from any more insipid Diane Warren-penned clunkers like this! You may not know Warren's name but you know her songs, like Starship's "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" and Milli Vanilli's "Blame It On The Rain"; when Aerosmith's "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" is easily someone's best tune, that's when you know that person is a miserable hack. This is the typical lip-synch/film clip combination that so often appears when we see movie-related videos, and although it's lush, it's also pretty dull. At least Yearwood's very pretty and she seems on the slim side of her Oprah-esque weight fluctuations here.
The final video gives us R Angels and their song "I Need to Know". Who R "R Angels"? Based on the evidence of this clip, they're Spice Girls wannabes who wannabe Spice Girls so badly their song badly reprises "Wannabe". It's another pretty lame lip-synch/film clip video, though at least the blonde's pretty hot. The redhead would look good, too, if she didn't so closely resemble a walking glass of milk - get some sun, baby!
For something new to the Blu-ray, we check out Big Bad Boat Race. This requires you to use your Blu-ray remote to steer a vessel around obstacles and shoot at other objects. It’s clunky and not much fun.
A second disc offers a DVD Copy of the film. This allows you to take the flick on the road with you. Have fun!
Stuart Little makes for a pleasant enough viewing experience. It seems more appropriate for the wee ones, but there's enough fun for adults to make it worth their while, especially since the movie features a terrific cast. The Blu-ray delivers very good audio and supplements but visuals tend to be inconsistent and occasionally messy. Even with the erratic visuals – most of which seem caused by the film’s effects – this is a pretty good release for a charming movie.
To rate this film visit the DVD review of STUART LITTLE