Disney // 2002 // 85 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // March 19th, 2009
There's one in every family.
"I found a puppy!"
Somewhere in a galaxy far, far away: a strange new creature has been born. The creature is a small, blue, furry mammal of sorts known as "Creature 626." The creature is intensely intelligent, remarkably strong, and has an insatiable appetite for chaos and destruction. The scientist who created the creature is put into prison, and the creature is taken away to be left for dead on a deserted meteor. Alas, before the meteor is reached, the creature escapes, making his way across the galaxy and landing on the planet earth.
On the planet Earth...Hawaii, to be specific: A young girl named Lilo is troubled. She doesn't seem able to make any friends, she's not doing particularly well in school, and a social worker is threatening to take Lilo away from her older sister. Lilo just needs a companion...someone she can talk to. Lilo decides to adopt a dog from the local pound. Instead of a dog, she finds Creature 626. Lilo instantly becomes enamored with the creature, and gives it the new name "Stitch." There are a couple of problems. First, the scientist from outer space has traveled to earth on a mission to re-capture the creature in order to regain his freedom. Second, Stitch has a pre-programmed need to cause destruction, with his ultimate mission being to destroy massive cities. Can Lilo teach Stitch the ways of peace, and if so, can she keep the scientist from taking her new best friend away?
Though the 2-D animated films of the post-Disney Renaissance era were typically regarded as disappointments, there were a few minor gems to come from that generally lackluster period. One of these was Lilo & Stitch, an offbeat little flick that really feels unlike anything else in Disney's canon. The film was something of a surprise hit at the box office, perhaps largely in part to the film's universal and timeless sense of slapstick comedy. The success of the film is built almost entirely on the comic originality of the lead character. Stitch (or Creature 626, whichever you prefer) is a wonderfully entertaining little thing, by turns laugh-out-loud funny and adorable. The character is a breath of creative fresh air, a genuinely original bit of animation created in an era in which originally is in scarce supply.
The best scenes in the film are those in which Stitch attempts to adapt his unique and unusual nature to the equally unique and unusual conventions of earth. He is pre-programmed to try and destroy large cities, so imagine his delight when he discovers that films have been created on earth that cheerfully depict precisely such events. Equally amusing is his distress when he is informed, "Isn't it great to live on an island with no big cities?" There's a great deal of wit throughout the proceedings, with lots of clever sci-fi references and in-jokes that manage to be amusing without feeling terribly dated or self-congratulatory.
The other characters are a bit more stock, but they're all reasonably satisfactory. Lilo is voiced with vigor and energy by Daveigh Chase (Big Love), while her older sister is voiced by Hawaiian native Tia Carrere. Ving Rhames does an amusing G-rated reprise of his role from Pulp Fiction as the social services worker (who just so happens to look exactly like Marcellus Wallace, all the way down to the earring). David Ogden Stiers and Kevin McDonald have a nice sense of comic chemistry as the bumbling pair of aliens attempting to adjust to life on planet earth, and writer/director Chris Sanders does a nice job providing an assortment of grunts, squeaks, and squeals as the hyperactive Stitch.
The animation here is rather cartoonish and broad, but it looks a little more refined than, say, The Emperor's New Groove or Home on the Range. The transfer here is quite strong, almost good enough to make this viewer okay with the fact that a hi-def version of the film isn't being made available. The film is very bright visually, and the vibrant images look very sharp and lively here. The previous one-disc version of the film looked quite good, but it actually seems to have been topped here. One really couldn't ask for a whole lot more from a standard-def transfer. Blacks are quite deep, and the image is completely free of flecks and scratches. The audio is strong as well, with a few dynamic action passages really standing out. Otherwise, the heroic Alan Silvestri score sounds quite rich here, and there's a solid balance between all of the audio elements. Another strong outing from Disney in the technical department.
This two-disc set reprises pretty much all of the supplements from the previous release, and adds a few new ones. Disc 1 includes a variety of lightweight goodies. The Hawaiian Chorus provides a music video for "Your 'Ohana'," while "A Stitch in Times" features David Ogden Stiers providing the goofy story of Stitch unsuccessfully attempting to infiltrate other Disney films early in his "career." There's another music video from the A-Teens, who offer a quick and obnoxious take on "I Can't Help Falling in Love With You." "DisneyPedia: Hawaii" (eight minutes) features Carrere and Chase offering in-character descriptions of famous Hawaiian landmarks, and there's another three-minute featurette on the art of hula dancing, accompanied by a two-minute featurette on the challenges of attempting to animated a hula dance. The most substantial featurette on the first disc is an audio commentary with co-directors Chris Sanders and Dead DeBlois, who provide an engaging if slightly dry discussion of the film. If you're into interactive stuff, you also get some "Lilo and Stitch Island Adventure Games" and a "Create Your Own Alien Experiment Game." A 1-minute featurette spotlights Wynonna's end credits performance. A handful of teaser trailers in which Stitch invades various Disney films are amusing enough to check out.
The big new supplement is included on the second disc. It's a two-hour making-of documentary that covers every single aspects of the film's creation from inception to completion. The interviews here are candid and casual, making the obligatory back-slapping a great deal more tolerable. If you're an animation fan, this is an absolute must-watch. It's not common for a film like this to get such a thorough and comprehensive documentary geared towards older viewers who really care about filmmaking. Kids may be bored by this doc, but cinema buffs will find tons of great stories and cool behind-the-scenes info. The only other noteworthy special feature on the disc is a collection of deleted and alternate scenes, including the original ending. The scene involved Stitch hijacking a commercial airliner, and was understandably cut after the events of September 11th, 2001 (which occurred after the scene had been almost entirely completed).
Despite the high level of originality in the humor department, the plot is a rather predictable creation that relies too heavily on the sort of ho-hum clichés that have defined most children's films over the course of the past couple decades. I realize that we need to teach kids positive lessons about responsibility following dreams, and all that sort of thing...but can't we find new ways to do it?
The film is entertaining, the transfer is strong, and the new documentary is a special feature worth upgrading for. This two-disc set is an easy recommendation.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.66:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 85 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Deleted & Alternate Scenes
* Music Videos
* Interactive Games