Lilo & Stitch
Review by Diana
Director: Dean Dublois, Chris Sanders
Rating: Victory Star Destroyer
Lilo is an orphan who's lost her parents in a car accident, and now lives with her older sister Nani. Understandably, Lilo has severe behavioral issues (the least of which is that she's an Elvis Presley fan! She also punches and bites classmates, feeds peanut butter sandwiches to individual fish, shows up to perform at a hula recital soaking wet, nails the front door shut when she doesn't want to be disturbed, etc.). A menacing-looking social worker named Cobra Bubbles -- with Lilo's best interests in mind -- warns Nani that unless the situation improves in three days, Lilo will be put into foster care. Nani, a young girl, works as a waitress, but loses her job and has severe trouble coping with the precocious, troubled youngster.
To try and improve things, Nani takes Lilo to the animal shelter and asks for a "sturdy, strong" dog for her sister. By chance, there is such a dog, so strange and strong that it is alive and well despite being run over by three logging trucks. It strikes fear in everyone he contacts, so much so that the shelter clerk and the other dogs tremble when they see him and try to dissuade Lilo from adopting him.
The dog is no dog, of course. He is known to the Galactic Federation as "Experiment Number 626" -- the product of genetic manipulation by a top mad scientist named Jumba. 626 is the ultimate evil, programmed to destroy anything and everything, and to cause havoc. He is intelligent, infinitely strong, impervious to physical and chemical attack and cleverly makes his escape to Earth (pronounced "eh-arth") after being sentenced to exile on an asteroid, simply for being an evil and dangerous misfit.
Typical Disney tale in the making, right? Two misfits find one another and live happily ever after.
This happens, but the path between meeting and living happily ever after is an interesting and different one. The "dog" -- named Stitch by Lilo -- is distressed to learn that on the islands of Hawaii, there aren't big cities or high technology to destroy. He is programmed to seek out such cities, back up the sewers, destroy the electrical grid, "steal everyone's left shoe ..." Jumba, who is arrested for creating the abonimable "626," is sent to capture it; his freedom in exchange for 626's capture. He is watched after by officer Pleakley, who explains that Earth cannot simply be destroyed to rid the galaxy of 626, as the planet is the habitat of a highly endangered race -- the mosquito! There are many clever gags and "iconic poses" for the residents of this film; it's unusually stylized and beautifully drawn and colored. Though it's a common tale of good in even a creature(s) built to be evil, the attention to all details and subtleties marks this as a quality product. It was even more obvious when we watched another animated feature film put out by another studio right after this movie. There was simply no competition with the Disney product. Love it or hate it, you can't deny that they do a great job.
It's honestly not a syrupy tale. Yes, there are tear jerking moments, epiphanies, and funny dances and music. This story works because the seemingly disparate elements are tightly woven together: Stitch is so out there, Hawai'i as the lush backdrop, animation of the hula, the music sung by the King Kamehameha School Children's Choir, the fear of those in authority, the pain of being without the unconditional love of a family ... unlike many movies, it all fits. There is no fat in this story ... every element is there because it's needed. Even Stitch picking up a VW Beetle to throw onto Jumba, yelling, "Blue punch buggy! No punchbacks!"
I know people who normally do not enjoy the "Disney formula" for assembling a movie, but they really loved this movie. Stitch really is an evil imp, but he discover he needs and wants love and is willing to risk everything to experience it. It appeals to the misfit in all of us, knowing we can go home for unconditional love when we need it. Or something like that.
It's highly recommended for everyone. Kids will love Stitch and enjoy his naughtiness, and parents should be prepared for children to try and imitate Stitch's weird voice and his swearing from the beginning of the film (whatever he said, it was so awful that robots threw up bolts in response, and another fainted). By the way, there are other things on this DVD, including "making of" clips, a feature on Hawai'i, the trailers, an interactive "make an alien" game, etc. An excellent value; many places are running Christmas shopping specials on this DVD, so expect to pay as little as $15 for a copy! A bargain for a thoroughly enjoyable film.