Los Angeles Times

'Stuart Little 2'

Special To The Times

New releases:

"Stuart Little 2" (PG)--Stuart Little has a death-defying adventure and his first romance in this handsomely wrought sequel, a neat blend of live action and computer animation, based again on characters from E.B. White's classic. Tots and older kids should delight in its mix of dopey innocence and slightly wicked humor, its high-flying action and its cheery, retro design. Climactic scenes of Stuart in danger could briefly scare the little ones. Deftly woven in is a message about parents giving kids enough freedom to face the world with confidence.

"Stuart Little 2" finds Stuart (voice of Michael J. Fox) a bit lonely. Young George (Jonathan Lipnicki) has his own friends and Mrs. Little (Geena Davis) is so protective she stifles Stuart. Then one day he's driving in his toy car and a pretty yellow warbler named Margalo (Melanie Griffith) falls into the passenger seat while fleeing an evil Falcon (James Woods). Stuart risks all to rescue her from the Falcon for good, with scaredy-cat Snowbell (Nathan Lane) as his backup. "Eight Legged Freaks" (PG-13)--Giant spiders mutated by toxic waste overrun a dusty western town in this amusing sci-fi horror spoof, which goes on a tad too long to sustain the silliness. It should entertain teens who like the genre, but may be too creepy for preteens. There's hardly any gore--just huge hairy spiders popping out of the ground and snatching people, plus gunplay, a guy zapped in the crotch by a stun gun, rare profanity and comic sexual innuendo. The computer-generated creatures look bulbous and fuzzy and real.

The likably reluctant heroes in "Eight Legged Freaks" include David Arquette as the returned town prodigal, Doug E. Doug as a radio crackpot ranting about alien invasions and Scott Terra as a spider-savvy kid.

"K-19: The Widowmaker" (PG 13)--Never mind the much-discussed Russian accents affected by stars Harrison Ford, Liam Neeson and the cast. They're subtle and never a distraction. Director Kathryn Bigelow's film, based on a 1961 Soviet submarine disaster, is long and occasionally ponderous but riveting once it builds up steam, with a claustrophobic intensity fueled by solid performances. The PG-13 rating reflects the level of danger and depiction of men dying of radiation sickness.

Ford plays dour Capt. Vostrikov, sent to pull rank on Capt. Polenin (Neeson) because the Kremlin wants its new flagship nuclear sub, the K-19 (dubbed "the widowmaker" by its crew), on patrol even though Vostrikov knows it's been built on the cheap and isn't ready. At sea the boat's nuclear reactor threatens to blow and the two men clash over how to handle what could be a war-triggering accident.

Other recent releases:

"Lovely & Amazing" (R)--A poignant, closely observed comedy about a mother and three daughters, "Lovely & Amazing" aims at grown-up sensibilities, though high school seniors who appreciate subtler acting and storytelling may like it. It includes a lengthy nude scene, strong sexual language and innuendo, a mild sexual situation, a dog attack off-camera and profanity. Part of the plot hinges on a 30-ish woman's affair with a teenage boy.

Brenda Blethyn plays a Los Angeles divorcee with two grown daughters--an unhappy, foul-mouthed artist (Catherine Keener) and a stunningly insecure actress (Emily Mortimer). She also has an adopted 8-year-old African American girl (excellent newcomer Raven Goodwin) with identity problems of her own. With wit and insight, writer-director Nicole Holofcener takes on sibling rivalry, maternal love, race and our obsession with looks.

Also in theaters:

6 and Older

"The Powerpuff Girls Movie" (PG)

"Lilo & Stitch" (PG)

"Scooby-Doo" (PG)

7 and Older

"Hey Arnold! The Movie" (PG)

8 and Older

"The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course" (PG)

"Like Mike" (PG)

13 and Older

"Reign of Fire" (PG-13)

"Men in Black II" (PG-13)

"Mr. Deeds" (PG-13)

15 and Older

"Minority Report" (PG-13)

"The Bourne Identity" (PG-13)

16 and Older

"Road to Perdition" (R)

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