One thing can be said about this Disney movie–it is certainly original. In a galaxy far far away we meet Experiment 626. Created illegally by a mad scientist named Jumba (voiced by David Ogden Stiers) this little blue alien–with four arms big ears and a very bad disposition–can’t be reformed. The Galactic Federation rules he must be banished to an uninhabited planet but in the transfer 626 escapes and crash-lands on a primitive natural wildlife preserve–otherwise known as Earth. There on the island of Kauai he disguises himself as a dog named Stitch and befriends Lilo (voiced by Daveigh Chase) a lonely little Hawaiian girl with a penchant for Elvis Presley songs (and thankfully none of the characters burst into original songs). Lilo’s older sister Nani (voiced by Tia Carrere) has become her sole guardian after their parents were killed but a big bad social worker named Cobra Bubbles (voiced by Ving Rhames) will take Lilo away if Nani can’t prove she is fit to take care of her little sister. Of course throwing the destructive Stitch into the equation doesn’t help matters much. Now being pursued by the Federation Jumba and an Earth expert named Pleakley (voiced by Kevin McDonald) the blue devil at first tries to find a way off the planet but soon takes a liking to his new surroundings and learns the meaning of “ohana”–the Hawaiian word for “family.”
Although there are no “star” voices being utilized in Lilo & Stitch each character is still stamped with his or her own unique voice. Carrere (Wayne’s girlfriend in Wayne’s World) and newcomer Chase do a nice job with their sisterly roles and Rhames is easily recognizable as the tough Bubbles who seems a little bit more Men in Black than a mere social worker (obviously intended). Interestingly there really isn’t one major villain. Characters like Jumba Bubbles and even Stitch start off as baddies but end up redeeming themselves. Only the Galactic police commissioner Captain Gantu (voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson) a 20-foot shark-like alien seems to be the one who never veers from his malevolent path to bring Stitch to justice but he’s only in about one-third of the film. The star of the show is Stitch voiced by Chris Sanders. The devilish imp is a lot funnier when he’s being a bad boy–running around saying the most awful things we can’t understand–than being the good little alien. In one hilarious scene he builds a replica of San Francisco with Lilo’s toys and then pretends he’s Godzilla stomping and chewing his way through. But alas it’s a Disney film so he has to come around realize he wants to be part of a family and find the goodness within himself. Ho hum.
Disney Studios were once the giants of animation. Remember when they could do no wrong as their movies grossed millions of dollars? Sure they still pride themselves on their heartwarming cutesy movies but as the hip and funny computer-generated Shrek and Ice Age dominate the current trend in animation Disney is having to keep up with the Joneses. With Lilo & Stitch it is trying. This movie is in the same vein as Aladdin and The Emperor’s New Groove in which the humor and wit aim right for the older audiences–and it’s appreciated. There are several laugh-out-loud moments. Plus it looks like Disney animated films are finally moving away from the original songs (which were never the same since lyricist Howard Ashman died). It’s a nice change of pace. The animation is also up to par illustrating a lush and beautiful Hawaiian landscape. (But how could you go wrong with drawing Hawaii?) Still the true audience is the younger set so those Disney-esque elements have to be in place. Stitch has to become “human.” Things have to wrap up neatly at the end. Maybe someday just once a Disney animated film will surprise us.