Lilo and Stitch (2002)
Disney’s track record the last few summers is not exactly sparkling. Did anyone out there see Dinosaur or Atlantis? Anybody? You know you’re in for a different take when the film’s heroine, Lilo, in her opening scene punches another little girl and tries to beat her to the ground. Lilo is a troubled child living with her older twenty-something sis, Nani, in Hawaii after a car accident claimed their parents’ lives. Nani is stretched thin trying to find a job, look after her troublesome little sister, and also stay a step ahead of the social services representative. Lilo is saddened at her situation and deeply longs for a friend.
In a galaxy far far away, a mad alien scientist is on trial for creating the ultimate in destructive evil-ness – a manic six armed blue dog lookin’ thing named Stitch. Through a series of circumstances Stitch manages to daringly escape and runs off to Earth, a protected planet because of a rare endangered species I won’t spoil. Stitch meets up with Lilo at an animal shelter and she immediately takes a liking to this offbeat pet. Stitch isn’t the friendliest or most well-behaved creature but he eventually warms up to his new family. You can pretty much take it from there.
What makes Lilo and Stitch so much better than the last few Diz offerings, besides a total lack of songs, is that it’s a fresh and Disney animated film. The focus is on an unconventional family with no pristine smooth edges around them (hello opening) and the material is shown a remarkable level of maturity. That isn’t to say that Lilo and Stitch isn’t funny, because it has many charming and hilarious moments, many due to the sputtering and wild Stitch.
Not all the elements entirely gel well, especially the sci-fi with the family struggle. The animation has an old-fashioned look to it complete with backgrounds that look dusty, like the ones that were used in the 1970s. The characters have a slight anime tinge to them, like half-moon mouths and noses like dinner rolls. Lilo and Stitch is the hippest Disney outing in a long while and the best non-Pixar animated film since the underrated Hercules.
Nate’s Grade: B