Our reviews of Lilo & Stitch: 2-Disc Big Wave Edition (published March 19th, 2009) and Lilo & Stitch / Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch (Blu-ray) (published June 17th, 2013) are also available.
Ohana means family, and family means no one gets left behind.
I want you to read that statement one more time: "Family means no one gets left behind." Have you got it burned into your memory yet? If not, you'll certainly have it shuffled away for the next 50 years of your life after watching Disney's Lilo & Stitch. Released theatrically in the summer of 2002, the film went on to do very well at the box office, surprising many who assumed the little off-beat Disney flick would just fly right under audience's radars. Featuring the voice talents of Tia Carrere (Wayne's World), David Ogden Stiers (Doc Hollywood), Kevin McDonald (Kids In The Hall: Brain Candy), and Ving Rhames (Undisputed), Lilo & Stitch claws its way onto DVD Care of the good old American Mouse House.
Facts of the Case
In a distant part of the galaxy, a small malevolent creature is about to escape the confines of space…and crash land on the tropical island of Hawaii! Stitch (voiced by creator/co-director Chris Sanders) is a small blue genetic blunder that loves destruction and looks something like a dog (granted, the ugliest dog you've ever seen, but a dog nonetheless). When he escapes from his prison and evil genius creator Jumba (Stiers), Stitch finds a new home with two native islanders—the adorable Lilo (Daveigh Chase) and her older sister Nani (Carerre). At a local dog pound, Lilo picks Stitch out as her new pet, even though he seems to destroy everything in his path and eats his boogers with his tongue. Nani is a single "mother" to Lilo—it seems that Nani and Lilo's parents died in a car wreck and Nani's attempting to make ends meet by working as a waitress at a local restaurant. They're even being hassled by a bruiting social worker named Cobra Bubbles (Rhames) who is threatening to take Lilo away if Nani doesn't provide better care for her sister (keep in mind this is a Disney movie…what Bubbles assumes is bad care is really just a cutesie "misunderstanding"). When the alien council finds out about Stitch's departure to planet Earth, they send Jumba and a wimpy government assistant named Pleakley (McDonald) to hunt him down and bring him back to justice. As Jumba and Pleakley attempt to capture Stitch, the little blue menace begins to understand what it means to have people that love him even if you are a little bit different.
Animated films really do allow for strange imaginations to run wild. Movies like The Nightmare Before Christmas and Monster's, Inc. take us to places and situations that we may never be able to see in live-action films. Lilo & Stitch easily falls into that category—who'd a thought that a little blue alien and the splendor of Hawaii would fit together so well?
Lilo & Stitch is in the same vein as Disney's comedic gem The Emperor's New Groove. The movie is a veritable mine of in-jokes, strange gags, and funny one-liners. It's refreshing and fun to see Disney produce movies that cater not only the children but also adults; while films like The Lion King and The Little Mermaid are all well and good, they tend to lean towards the overly saccharine side of storytelling. Lilo & Stitch, on the other hand, is an all-out romp. While a message is there to be found—family is the most important thing we've got—it often takes a backseat to Lilo and Stitch's wacky antics. Stitch himself is a Disney character oddity—he's malicious, a bit of a hothead and extremely gruff. Yet underneath his destructively programmed exterior lies a heart of gold. (Hey, it's a Disney movie—what did you expect?) I liked the fact that Stitch generally talked in only grumbles and growls; it made his character all the more endearing. Lilo is also an unconventional Disney heroine—instead of being lanky and pretty, she's chunky and cute. I was happy to see this type of character get her own movie. I think that Hollywood has produced enough live-action/animation movies with Barbie dolls as the leads. Lilo is a wonderful example for kids with spunk to spare.
Though Lilo and Stitch are both funny, it's often the supporting characters that carry a film like this. Tia Carrere as Nani is apt enough (though not an especially memorable character), while Kevin McDonald as the one-eyed alien Pleakley lights up the screen with every scene he's in. McDonald is one of the funniest guys in Hollywood—with his high-pitched voice and panicky mannerisms, McDonald's personality perfectly fits Pleakley's shoes. Rounding out the supporting cast is David Ogden Stiers doing a goofy accent as Stitch's creator and Ving Rhames as Cobra Bubbles, a character who must have one of the funniest names in all of animation history.
While I really enjoyed Lilo & Stitch, it doesn't really rank as one of Disney's top animated efforts. The animation style is nice, though it can't rival newer CGI films, or even some of the studio's previous hand-drawn classics; it just lacks any true punch. The story is also light on "oomph"—at a scant 85 minutes there's not a lot of time to really get into any plot or character complexities. And what's the deal with that catch phrase "family means no one gets left behind"? I think various characters said that line about half a dozen times during the length of the film. Thanks guys, we got it already—you're all about the family unit.
But I'm quibbling. Lilo & Stitch is an adorable movie for both children and their parents. There are plenty of jokes for mom and dad and plenty of slapstick humor for the little ones. Lilo & Stitch may not be a four star movie, but it is a hoot and a half.
Lilo & Stitch is presented in 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen. Disney has done a fantastic job at making sure this print is clear of any defects or major imperfections. The colors (and oh my Lord, there are a lot of 'em) are all bright and clear while the black levels are solid and well saturated. I don't have any enormous complaints about this transfer—it looked great on my TV and should look great on yours.
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English, Spanish, and French. While this isn't a perfect sound mix, it does support the film very well with great directional/surround sound effects and crystal clear dialogue and music. Alan Silvestri's tropically tinged music score never drowns out the dialogue, making this a very appropriate mix. The only major fault I found on this track was that it felt a little too front heavy. Otherwise, a real pleasure. Also included on this disc are English subtitles.
There are rumors that a two-disc set of Lilo & Stitch is in the works. Until then, fans will have to be content with this single disc version that, while not overly heavy of supplements, still includes a few fine extra features. Below is a rundown of what's on the disc:
DisneyPedia—The Islands of Hawaii: For those of you who don't have enough money to visit Hawaii, this little section will dole out all the info you need to know about America's tropical paradise. Six island featurettes are included, each with Nani and Lilo explaining its history and other fun facts about each island. Hey look…it's both fun and educational!
Create Your Own Alien Experiment Game: This ends up being a lot less exciting than it sounds. Basically all you do is answer questions about the movie and make a new alien. Ho-hum, but kids will get a kick out of it.
A Stitch in Time: Follow Stitch Through the Disney Years: This is a faux history of Disney and how Stitch has actually been at the studio quite some time. See how Stitch was actually in such films as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Lady and the Tramp, and other such movies. Goofy but fun.
Hula Lesson: A very quick overview of how to perform an authentic Hawaiian hula dance. Fluffy at best.
Young Voices of Hawaii: A very brief look at a children's choir performing one of the songs from the film. This also includes interview segments with various crew and animation members.
Burning Love—Behind the Scenes with Wynonna: A music video in disguise as featurette. Viewers get a good look at Wynonna (clad in leather and looking like a biker chick) as she records the Elvis Presley tune "Burning Love" for the end credits of the film.
"I Can't Help Falling In Love With You" Music Video by the A-Teens: If you need an explanation of this, then it's doubtful you're actually able to work your DVD player anyhow.
The Look of Lilo & Stitch: A glimpse at the animation of the film and how it was influenced by Disney artist Chris Sanders. This was the best featurette on the disc and includes a lot of production information on the characters and how Sanders' unique visual style (everything looks very rounded) helped shape the final movie.
Animating the Hula: A brief featurette that looks at animating the hula dancing, an important part of Hawaiian culture.
On Location with the Directors: This is a nearly 20-minute featurette that follows the directors through various parts of the shoot, including storyboard presentations, animation, voice recording, and other areas of production. This is all shot in 1.33:1 full frame video tape and should give viewers a little more insight into the making of the film.
Three Deleted Scenes: These include "Stitch's Trial," "Gantu Challenges," and "Bedtime Story." All are presented in non-anamorphic widescreen in a very rough looking black and white transfer. Most are only half completed, consisting of only pencil drawings and rough animation. Introductions with the director are also included.
Theatrical Teaser Trailers: Trailers that show four different Disney classics and Stitch invading all of them. I'll have to admit, I laughed pretty hard at these short trailers—it's nice to know Disney sometimes has a self-depreciating sense of humor.
Bonus Trailers: These are eight trailers/promotional spots for different Disney films/products, including an upcoming "Stitch" straight-to-video movie.
You know what I'd like to see? A movie featuring big blue Stitch and all those little blue Smurfs. Maybe if we're lucky enough, Stitch would eat 'em all as a mid-morning snack. Disney has done an acceptable job on this disc, though hardcore fans might want to wait until the release of the new two-disc set.
Lilo & Stitch is free to go until it's caught again…
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