LILO & STITCH (2002)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 25 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG for Mild Sci-Fi Action

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Directed by: Dean DeBlois, Chris Sanders

Written by: Chris Sanders, Dean DeBlois

Voices of: Daveigh Chase, Chris Sanders, Tia Carrere, David Ogden Stiers, Kevin McDonald, Ving Rhames, Jason Scott Lee, Kevin Michael Richardson

The marketing campaign for LILO & STITCH was brilliant. It seemed as if Disney was congratulating itself on doing something out of the fairy tale/musical norm and the product is certainly very different from anything the studio has done in the past. This animated Science-Fiction comedy nails both genuine heartfelt emotion that a story like this needed and oddball hilarious humor that provides some huge laughs throughout.

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Lilo is a young Hawaiian girl living in a broken home. Her parents tragically died in a car crash and her stressed-out sister, Nani, has been forced into the position of legal guardian. The relationship between the two is strained, so Nani lets Lilo buy a pet. While all this drama has been occurring between the sisters, an intergalactic fugitive has escaped to Earth and poses as a dog, which Lilo unwittingly picks out. Stitch causes all sorts of hijinks, but a steady relationship bonds between himself and Lilo. Other threats wait in the background though. A social worker is looking to possibly take Lilo away from the custody of Nani, while two mismatched aliens (Jumba, the demented creator of Stitch, and Pleakly, a wimpy expert about the planet Earth) plot to capture Stitch.

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The animation here is unlike many of the classical styles we’ve seen from Disney. It’s hand-drawn (in fact, this may have been one of the last hand-drawn animated Disney films with the exception of BROTHER BEAR, HOME ON THE RANGE, and PRINCESS AND THE FROG) and takes advantage of its strange premise in grand fashion. This includes chases with spaceships, lots of destruction in the final act, and all sorts of cool looking aliens. The setting of Hawaii offers a bit of a different flavor too.

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In essence, LILO & STITCH is a sci-fi comedy mixed with a family drama. This combination actually works pretty well. The relationship between Nani and Lilo is extremely well done. I felt for these characters, which is always a trait to be admired in an animated family film (or any family film for that matter). There’s also Stitch, who comes off as a lovable character, despite his destructive nature.

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However, the story is predictable, from the troubles the different characters face to an impending climax with a fairly obvious villain (shown early on and returning for the final showdown). The best comic relief comes in the form of Jumba and Pleakley, who provide some huge laugh-out-loud moments. There are plenty of plot elements we’ve seen before though, from the struggling family to the kids constantly picking on Lilo. We know everything will turn out in a happy ending. It is a kid’s film after all. Some of it just feels a bit overly familiar, though I was interested in seeing how certain plot threads would resolve.

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The biggest fault is the predictability of the script, but otherwise LILO & STITCH is solid family entertainment. It truly is like nothing Disney has done before and the company probably won’t wind up doing anything like it again. This is a fun, frequently hilarious animated sci-fi comedy. It’s what you would expect from such an idea and it’s executed in a style that you wouldn’t expect to see from Disney. This one comes recommended, especially if you want to see something other than fairy tales from the same studio that brought us the most famous rodent in history!

Grade: B

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