Knowing my fondness for weird animated fare it was suggested that Lilo & Stitch would be my cup of tea, and that it was a Disney film that deserved more love than it had received. I’m not sure about that though, for one thing it was popular enough to get its own spin-off series and a live action remake is in the works, and while it’s entertaining for most of its running time it isn’t anything that amazing.
It does have a fairly intriguing premise as the strangely complex opening sees evil genius Doctor Jumba (David Ogden Stiers) on trial in a faraway galaxy for creating a genetic monstrosity, experiment 626, and sentenced to a lengthy spell in space prison. He’s given a chance to redeem himself however when 626 escapes and heads off to Earth, and if he can capture the bastard he’ll be given a full pardon. And because this is a Disney movie, he’s given a zany sidekick, with Kids In The Hall star Kevin McDonald as the one eyed alien Pleakley.
When 626 arrives on Earth he’s run over and dumped at a dog pound where he transforms himself so he looks slightly less alien (though still distinctly un-dog-like) and is adopted by young tearaway Lilo (Daveigh Chase) and given the name Stitch. She lives with her older sister Nani (Tia Carrere) but may not do so for too much longer as social services in the form of Ving Rhames’ Mr Bubbles aren’t convinced that Nani is a suitable parental figure.
A fish out of water odd couple style situation then plays out, except that it’s a killer fish with an appetite that initially can’t be sated, at least until directors Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois (the directors and writers of How To Train Your Dragon) forget about that element of the story and concentrate on Jumba and Pleakley every so often trying to recapture Stitch. After the exciting space set opening its here the movie is at its weakest, Stitch is fairly annoying and his violent antics tend to raise a smile at best, and though there’s a cute enough montage of Stitch learning all about Elvis Presley it’s something I struggled to remain entertained by.
At least it moves up a gear in its final act when both Lilo and Stitch are captured by another alien, there’s a long chase sequence with some daft violence as it appears Stitch is essentially immortal, and its revealed that Mr Bubbles once worked for the CIA. But though the human characters are likeable enough I struggled to find myself really caring about them, and if Lilo had been dragged off in to foster care I wouldn’t exactly have shed a tear. The script is only slightly above average too, with a subplot involving Lilo’s love for Elvis feeling oddly out of place, and I couldn’t help but feel that it’s the kind of thing Dreamworks chuck out without much interest, lacking the quality you’d normally associate with a Disney movie.
There are some sequences which work, Lilo building his own version of San Francisco before then destroying it is quirkily amusing, while the ending partially redeems the film. The performances are decent enough too, but the dialogue really lets it down, and this is a Disney film that will mainly appeal to very young children who like seeing things explode, with there very little here for adult viewers who despite the outlandish plot will probably find the animated antics fairly by the numbers.