Lilo & Stitch (2002)

lilo and stitch IMDb

I’d only watched Lilo & Stitch once before this, and didn’t remember liking it much. It was fun, but I didn’t get that Disney feeling like I do watching something like Beauty & the Beast or Sleeping Beauty. But on second viewing I see that this is a bit of an overlooked gem in the Disney catalogue.

There are so many elements to Lilo & Stitch that make it different from almost everything else Disney had produced up to that point. Nani, a Hawaiian teen, is struggling to provide for her spirited younger sister, Lilo. While orphans are not unique in the Disney universe, they’ve never been shown dealing with social workers or having the threat of being sent to foster care hanging over their heads. This realism is not only a good counterpoint to the whole “Stitch is an alien” angle, but to all the Disney princesses and their storybook problems.

Lilo & Stitch also forgoes the classic musical format in favor of Elvis classics and Hawaiian inspired songs. I loved this, mostly because I love Elvis, but also because perfectly reflects the movie’s setting. My only nitpick is that I wish there was more native music in the soundtrack. The King is beloved in Hawaii, but it would have been nice to hear more songs reflective of Nani and Lilo’s heritage.

This movie is also just plain beautiful, both visually and in regards to its story. The backgrounds are done in watercolor, which give them an almost ethereal quality. Anyone who has ever visited Hawaii can attest to the state’s beauty, and the backgrounds and animation used in Lilo & Stitch perfectly captures that. The story also incorporates the Hawaiian concept of ‘ohana, a term often used to describe the idea of extended families. At first Nani and Lilo are the only family the other has, but they eventually adopt Stitch and others, creating a family that extends beyond blood.

Will Lilo & Stitch ever be as widely beloved as Disney films such as The Little Mermaid or The Lion King? Probably not. This is a quieter film, without an epic story. It’s a little too quirky to have caught on with a mainstream audience, despite a story that would resonate with many. Still, it has spawned its own franchise, so people are aware that it’s out there. If you haven’t seen it, check it out. It’s the perfect Disney film for people who aren’t Mickey Mouse crazy.

Rating: B+

We watched this film a day after watching The Lion King (I know it was out of order, so sue me), which really was not fair on Lilo & Stitch. I’m sure this is a perfectly enjoyable animated film, but when you’ve just watched arguable the best Disney film ever made, it pales in comparison.

Lilo & Stitch is a cute story about friendship. Lilo (Daveigh Chase) is a young girl living in Hawaii. She is being raised by her sister Nani (Tia Carrere) after their parents died, and child services is threatening to put Lilo into foster care because Nani struggles to hold down a regular job. Lilo is a friendless child who hopes for someone who understands her. One night while wishing for a friend to come along, she sees what looks like a shooting star. Turns out this star is actually an failed alien experiment from outer space named Stitch (Chris Sanders). Lilo ventures out one day to find what landed when her star crashed and finds Stitch, who she mistakes for a dog. The two bond quickly, and she soon realises Stitch’s former owners are hunting him down. Lilo must help her new friend avoid this new alien threat, as well as hide him from child services who are still keen to put Lilo in foster care.

It is really unfair to compare this to some of the classic Disney films, but considering we watched one the day before, it was really hard not to. Lilo & Stitch is a cute film, but it is missing the memorable songs that are so prevalent in most of Disney’s classic films. The movie makes good use of Elvis Presley music, but there is certainly nothing like “Be Our Guest,” “A Whole New World,” or “Circle of Life” here, which is disappointing. It also doesn’t help that the second lead (Stitch) communicates in not much more than growls and grunts. He has such a big part and it was annoying that he did not talk. Especially when Disney have had no issues with talking animals in the past.

What makes Disney films so good is that they are fun for the whole family. Lilo & Stitch is fun, but probably not for anyone over the age of ten. I was quite bored watching this film, and that is not something I have felt with other Disney films and definitely not with any of the Pixar films except for the 90 minute toy commercials that were Cars and Cars 2.

Lilo & Stitch is a cute story, but is really only for younger kids. There is not much here for teenagers and adults.

Rating: C-

One thought on “Lilo & Stitch (2002)

  1. Pingback: The Lion King (1994) | From The Abyss to Zoolander

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