|Lilo & Stitch|
|Written by Mel Odom|
|Tuesday, 03 December 2002|
Known for their top of the line graphics and award-winning movie soundtracks in children's animated film features, Disney Studios splits the score sheet with a near-hit and a near-miss with "Lilo And Stitch." Traditional Disney audiences may have some objections to the actions of the lead characters, but the film delivers the goods on action and humor. Chris Sanders came up with the idea and co-wrote the script with Dean DeBlois and also shared the directing credits.
The story feels like a familiar Golden Age Disney theme. Troubled child adopts a strange pet that changes his or her life completely. Only "Lilo And Stitch" has been amped up to the Nth degree, given a science fiction makeover and a set of tunes from the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. The changes and additions almost make the movie great, but at the same time, these changes may bring the story down in the eyes of the usual Disney audience.
The audio portion of the DVD is outstanding. From the opening Walt Disney logo effects, we know we’re in for a session that will blow out the surround sound system if the viewing fare of late has been moderately laid-back in audio muscle. Moving into the story in Chapter 1, the electronic hum of the alien spaceship speeds along like a demon-driven wind. A smaller craft enters the mothership from the left, and the sound comes appropriately from the left front speaker. The ponderous footsteps of the Grand Councilwoman ring through the surround sound system, bringing a heavy weight that slams into us and fills us with dread.
Dr. Jumba Jookiba, on trial for creating a biological weapon known as Experiment 626, denies all guilt. However, Jookiba also goes on to note that Experiment 626 was created to destroy everything. When questioned by the Grand Councilwoman, who is searching for some indication of good within the little blue creature, Experiment 626 responds so inappropriately that the whole council is in an uproar. A robot standing near the Grand Councilwoman throws up gears and spare parts in response. Jookiba quickly points out that he didn't teach the creature that. Jookiba is willing to admit to being an evil genius, but not to inciting the crude behavior the creature exhibits at that moment.
The inappropriate behavior is funny on one hand, but on the other, a core group of longtime Disney audience members may have problems with the creature's obnoxious behavior. A case in point is when Stitch slimes the glass prison holding him captive by licking the surface with his tongue.
Shocked and outraged by the creature's behavior and obvious rebelliousness, the Grand Councilwoman gives orders that Experiment 626 is to be banished to a deserted asteroid where he can't hurt anyone. In the ship's brig in Chapter Two, a fairly violent scene for a Disney film ensues. Experiment 626, bound in high-tech chains, is subjected to a blood test that involves a huge hypodermic behind shoved into the back of his neck. The vial fills with pinkish blood. Captain Gantu's footsteps strike the steel bulkheads like a death knell. Moments later, the ship's thrusters kick in, lighting up the subwoofer in a sudden cacophony of thunderous explosions.
In short order, Experiment 626 makes his escape in a manner that many parents of young children will again not approve. Since the blasters surrounding him are attuned to his DNA, they track his spit as well. He spits over the floor, the bulkhead, and his captors, triggering a series of shots that punch holes in the ship's walls and endangers the men holding him captive. Free and running, Experiment 626 flees into the ventilation system. The surround sound system relays the noise of his footsteps from front right to front left speakers. A short time later, Experiment 626 goes into warp near the mothership, causing a power shortage that rips through the surround sound system from right to left front speakers.
Streaking for freedom in a ship liberated from Captain Gantu's vessel in Chapter 3, Experiment 626 lands on Earth, a world that is protecting an endangered (on Stitch’s home planet) species known as the mosquito. Unable to follow the fleeing craft or to shoot it down, the Grand Councilwoman monitors the vessel and hopes that the creature lands in the water. Since the world is 75% water, she figures there is a real chance that the creature will hit one of the large bodies of water and sink like a stone. Once he's in the water, Experiment 626 will be a goner because he can't swim and he's too dense to float. Instead, Experiment 626 crash-lands in Hawaii.
In Chapter 4, the Grand Councilwoman is forced to resort to drastic measures in an attempt to get Experiment 626 off the planet. She frees Jookiba from the mothership's prison level, a place that really comes to life with myriad noises and voices on a surround sound system. When she leaves the room, the door slams in the left front speaker.
Chapter 5 highlights the true Disney strengths, music and lush graphics. The Hawaiian song is a spirit-lifting toe-tapper. A rainbow of colors presented in sea life as well as hula dancing presents a background that introduces the credits as well as Lilo, the young star of the movie. Careful listening to the surround sound system reveals that the drumbeats echo from the front and rear speakers, while the vocals issue from the center.
Late for hula practice, Lilo arrives dripping wet from her swim in the ocean. She demonstrates amazing skill as a dancer, but the pools of water that she leaves on the stage from her wet bathing suit causes the other young dancers to fall. After an unbelievable excuse for her tardiness, and a slighting remark from one of the girls, Lilo launches into an all-out attack on her tormentor. This display of anger and physical violence, although true to form in the real world, will also be off-putting to regular Disney parents seeking a fun movie for their youngsters. Lilo even goes so far as to bite one of the other girls, not something that parents, daycare facilities and schools will want younger viewers to emulate.
Chapter 6 introduces Nani, Lilo's sister and guardian. She frantically searches for Lilo, allowing the film's animators to pump up the action as she races home. She also crosses paths with a mysterious black car, stopping long enough to call the driver a "stupid head." The soundtrack kicks into high gear with a rendition of Elvis Presley's "Heartbreak Hotel."
While Nani tries to break into the home where she lives with her sister, the social worker she's been dreading arrives. He turns out to be a grim, forbidding person named Cobra Bubbles. He has his name tattooed across his knuckles. He's also the man in the mysterious black car that Nani called a "stupid head." The visit doesn't go well. Cobra Bubbles tells Nani that he is the social worker the system calls when things go wrong. He gives Nani three days to get her sister and her life under control.
Lilo's flight from her sister in Chapter 7 adds a real moment of cunning hilarity, but this is quickly offset by the physical restraint by her sister and the rebellious attitude on Lilo's part. The argument between the sisters is great and very realistic, but again, probably too realistic for most small children.
Chapter 8 gives us a tender moment between the sisters. Lilo admits that she had a fight, and Nani works to strike a balance between them. Lilo sees what she thinks is a falling star. Nani drags her feet when Lilo asks her to leave, claiming that gravity has suddenly increased and causes her to fall on Lilo. Trapped by her sister's body, Lilo complains that her "butt is crushing me," another instance that might not win the approval of many parents with small children due to language. In her room, Lilo prays that an angel be brought into her life. At the same time, the alien spacecraft smashes into the island.
On Earth in Chapter 9, freed from the twisted and flaming mass of the spaceship’s wreckage, Experiment 626 begins searching for a metropolitan area to destroy, which is part of what he was designed to do. The flames surrounding the crater he crawls out of crackle through the subwoofer. Only a little later in his quest, the rain spatters the street and the jungle all around the creature, echoing through the surround sound system so that we feel we are only a step away from Experiment 626. The thunder of the truck running over the creature chops through the surround sound system.
In Chapter 10, the creature awakes in the local animal shelter. Lilo has gotten Nani to promise that she can have a pet: "Something sturdy. Something that won't die." Experiment 626 pulls in his two extra arms and passes himself off as a dog. Lilo promptly names him Stitch.
Following Lilo in Chapter 11, Stitch begins investigating his new environment, leading to one humorous encounter after another. The little creature also tries to follow out his genetic programming, pointed out by Jookiba as an agenda to "back up sewers, reverse street signs, and steal everyone's left shoe." However, Stitch quickly discovers that he lives on an island with no large cities, and that fact nearly drives him crazy.
Chapter 12 opens up with Elvis' "Stuck On You," and lends itself to the continued threat of Jookiba as well as Stitch and Lilo's inability to get along. Both of them have problems, and most of those problems are similar. The sections of the movie that feature the King's rock ‘n’ roll rhythms really come across well, ripping through the surround sound system.
David, a fire dancer who is Nani's potential love interest, gets introduced in Chapter 13. During his act, the flames crackle and roar through the subwoofer. Chapter 14 also brings out the thought of family, the fact that no one gets left behind and no one gets forgotten.
Chapter 15 features a hilarious scene in which Stitch uses Lilo's toys to build a miniature reproduction of San Francisco, then destroys that tiny city with animated zest. Another Elvis tune, "Devil In Disguise," pops up in Chapter 17 and leads to a montage of riveting scenes of Nani looking desperately for another job while Stitch's attempts at becoming an Elvis wannabe, at Lilo's insistence, sabotages each of those job interviews. The guitar-picking sequence at the beach explodes from the subwoofer.
The surfing music in Chapter 18 is exciting and uplifting, rolling from the center speaker(s), then echoing through the front and back speakers. The animation detailing the surfing is colorful, fun and visually appealing. Stitch's weakness around water is reiterated, and he requires rescue in Chapter 19. He also notices how he gets left out of the family activities between Nani, David, and Lilo.
The rest of the movie is devoted to increasing the pressure on all the characters. Jookiba steps up his attempts to recapture Stitch, while the Grand Councilwoman sends Captain Gantu to retrieve the creature. Cobra Bubbles tells Nani he has no choice but to remove Lilo from the home the next morning. Of course, by then all the action breaks loose. The chase sequences are exciting, filled with thunder that crashes through the surround sound system.
The DVD package extras include the DisneyPedia of Hawaii. The film sections are informative and beautiful to watch for both the older and younger viewers. The "Create Your Own Alien Experiment Game" section narrated by Dr. Jookiba will amuse younger viewers. The "A Stitch In Time: Follow Stitch Through The Disney Years" presentation actually comes across more as an advertisement for the other Disney feature films than a featurette in its own right. The mini-documentary concerning the art of the hula is interesting and informative. Wynonna carries a lot of fire in the brief interview concerning the recording of Elvis' "Burning Love.”
Overall, "Lilo and Stitch" is an amusing film to watch for both adults and kids. Disney obviously believes in the character and is releasing a direct-to-video new Stitch movie in Summer 2003. The DVD offers definite appeal for repeated viewings. However, parents of impressionable young ones need to be aware that Lilo and Stitch both exhibit behavior that they may feel will cause problems at home. But if that isn't going to be a concern, "Lilo and Stitch" touchingly revisits all the familiar problems and characters that have become Disney staples, as well as having a dynamite soundtrack and beautiful animation.