A review of “Lilo & Stitch” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: *** 1/2

Rating: PG for mildly intense situations

Run Time: 1 hour, 25 minutes

 

 

Disney finally gets hip to the fact that their formulaic structure isn’t the only animated game in town. By mounting a subversive cartoon with wide age-range appeal, the Mouse House has taken a low-level risk that’s sure to pay off.

Meet Experiment 626 – a bulletproof, fireproof, animal-like instrument of destruction sans conscience. Six-two-six is an abomination – a flawed product of a deranged scientific mind who, not passing muster with his alien planet’s higher order, is considered a likely candidate for exile.  Before the necessary steps can be deployed, 626 manages a wild and crazy escape and crash-lands on the desert island known as planet Earth.

It’s a bad fit from the get-go.  Six-two-six is irresistibly drawn to large cities, where he can reverse street signs, steal left-footed shoes, and wreak urban havoc.  Unfortunately, his space pod lands in the Hawaiian Islands; lush, rural, and surrounded by water.  A disastrous stint at the local animal shelter ends abruptly when a lonely problem child named Lilo (voice of Daveigh Chase) is brought to the pound by her older sister Nani (voice of Tia Carrere) to pick out a pet dog.  Lilo is immediately drawn to the peculiar blue creature, and insists on making him her own.

It’s a match made in hell.  Lilo names her renegade “puppy” Stitch, and showers him with all the fierce devotion her unruly heart can muster.  Stitch is anything but loveable – a nose picking, ass-scratching, razor-toothed fugitive who repeatedly jeopardizes Lilo’s life, and seriously hampers Nani’s ability to adhere to her fragile responsibilities as Lilo’s guardian.

“Lilo & Stitch” succeeds with a winning ratio of laughter and tears. Core storyline is pure “E.T.” – a pair of awkward misfits thrown together, only to discover (through a series of brisk catastrophes) that they are kindred spirits. Stitch’s crazy antics are an edgy counterpart to Lilo’s poignant social isolation; the engaging yin and yang of the narrative.

The only hitch is the rather abrupt transition (from evil to amiable) of Stitch’s character arc, and Lilo’s too-smooth ability to soothe Stitch’s computer-generated soul.  The gorgeous hand-drawn animation is a riotous profusion of sound and color, designated to appeal on every sensory level.  Bravo, Walt Disney.