out of Five
Running time: 85
The latest offering from Disney is an enjoyably anarchic, frequently amusing slice of children’s entertainment – kids will love it, adults will be glad it’s not Pokémon.
Lilo & Stitch is the latest original traditionally animated cartoon (think The Emperor’s New Groove) to emerge from the House of Mouse. Despite a plot that’s not a million miles away from Warner Bros’ vastly superior The Iron Giant, this is still a lot of fun, with an impressively anarchic streak that adults will appreciate.
Genetically Engineered Killing Machine
The film has a terrific opening, which, to be fair, it never quite lives up to. On a distant planet, an Evil Genius has come up with the ultimate weapon – an indestructible, intelligent, genetically engineered killing machine, whose only instinct is to destroy.
The problem is that it promptly escapes, zooms off to Earth and hides out in Hawaii, where it’s adopted as a dog and given the name “Stitch” by a young misfit girl named Lilo.
Naturally, the Evil Genius and his Comedy Sidekick are sent to Earth to
recover Stitch. Meanwhile, Lilo is proving too much to handle for her
overworked sister and guardian Nani (Carrere), and Social Services are
threatening to take her into care. (See what they did there? Clever
paralleling, eh? Oh yes.)
Punch In The Face
The characters are, for the most part, excellent, particularly Lilo in her opening sequences – how often do you hear a Disney heroine say the line "I'm sorry I punched you in the face"? Other good characters include the Grand Councilwoman on Stitch’s home planet (who rules out blowing up the Earth to destroy Stitch because “the mosquito is a protected species”) and Ving Rhames’ Man In Black who just happens to be working for the Social Services.
Refreshingly, the film makes great use of a handful of Elvis classics, as opposed to the sickly-sweet ballads that usually characterise these things. This also allows for a great scene in which Lilo discovers another of Stitch’s many abilities and uses him as a record player.
Unfortunately, it appears that Naughty Record Executives have managed to shoehorn the (hawk, spit) Gareth Gates song onto the British version of the soundtrack of this – hopefully it will play over the end credits, so you can leave in good time.
The film has a number of other great off-the-wall moments, some of which may be a little familiar to fans of Bill Watterson’s masterful Calvin & Hobbes. The scenes aren’t exactly explicit, but it’s tempting to see them as a tribute, nonetheless.
If the film has a problem, it’s that it lacks the jaw-dropping set piece that the opening sequences appear to set up. (Contrast this, for example, with the equivalent scenes in The Iron Giant). Similarly, some of the characters aren’t quite as funny as they’re meant to be and Nani, though cute in an animated character sort of way, verges on whiny and annoying.
That said, at a bladder-friendly 85 minutes, the film doesn’t out-stay its welcome and the predictable Disney theme of friendship and family (or “ohana” in Hawaiian) overcoming all obstacles is presented in an acceptable way, rather than being drenched in syrup.
In short, kids will love it and adults won’t begrudge the 85 minutes. You can probably go ahead and add another star if you’re between 4 and 10. Recommended.