Review: Lilo & Stitch

The film’s message is as warm and intimate as its color palette and as heart-warming as the smile on Stitch’s face.

Lilo & Stitch

Looks can be deceiving and we’re not talking about Experiment 626’s unconventional appearance. For anyone who actually bought into the lifeless, ham-fisted PC agenda of Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, please take note: this is how it’s really done. Experiment 626 (think Nibbler from Futurama crossed with Andy Kaufman) is a fugitive from the planet Turo who crash lands on Hawaii just in time to grant a little native girl’s wish for a best friend. Disney’s ads for Lilo & Stitch are only half-truths—yes, Stitch is a cutie-patootie, but he’s also a savage beast. The little blue alien uses Lilo to literally shield himself from two bungling bounty hunters sent to destroy him. If love at first is not reciprocal, Stitch does come around. Born so he could wreak havoc to large cities, he must now reconcile the meaning of his creation when stranded on the film’s island paradise. Stitch constructs a tiny San Francisco in Lilo’s bedroom, engaging Godzilla (or, more accurately, Tarantula) as he destroys his own creation. His existential dilemma (the need to destroy that which is not there) is delicately balanced with an equally troubled Lilo’s need to construct a family out of all things broken. The old-fashioned animation should appeal to fans of, say, The Secret of NIMH, which means Disney whores may scoff at the film’s unpolished glam. The filmmaker’s lovingly bring to the life the island’s musical rhythms, not to mention its cultural infiltrations. Stitch, not unlike Elvis, seems right at home in this foreign, tropical setting. That the film successfully maintains its subversive tone throughout makes it all the easier to swallow the cloying subplot that threatens to tear Lilo away from her older sister. The film’s message is as warm and intimate as its color palette and as heart-warming as the smile on Stitch’s face. Excruciatingly adorable, Stitch is the rambunctious toddler only a monster could hate. Then again, he’d be nothing without his sharp wit. So maybe it’s as simple as that: in the end, Disney’s Lilo & Stitch is worthy of Looney Tunes.

 Cast: Daveigh Chase, Chris Sanders, Jason Scott Lee, Tia Carrere, Kevin McDonald, Ashley Rose Orr, Ving Rhames, David Ogden Stiers  Director: Dean Deblois, Chris Sanders  Screenwriter: Chris Sanders  Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures  Running Time: 85 min  Rating: G  Year: 2002  Buy: Video, Soundtrack

Ed Gonzalez

Ed Gonzalez is the co-founder of Slant Magazine. His writing has also appeared in The Village Voice and The Los Angeles Times. He’s a member of the New York Film Critics Circle, the Critics Choice Association, and the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association.

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