Whodathunkit? In a weird attempt to get its children's films to grow up, Disney decides to build "Lilo and Stitch" not around a classic fairy-tale or evil monsters that want to take over the world, but genetic experimentation and Social Services. It worked for me, but what will the kiddies say? Will too much of it be over their heads? Maybe they'll laugh as I did; maybe they'll enjoy themselves too much to give it a second thought.
In an alien court, Dr. Jumba Jookiba (voiced by David Ogden Stiers) is banished to prison for creating a little blue monster that he dubs Experiment #626 (Chris Sanders III, who also came up with the idea for the film). The sentence includes destroying Experiment #626, but something goes wrong and the creature escapes, finding himself on the planet Earth in Hawaii. It must be caught before it is too late.
Meanwhile, on planet Earth, Nani Pelekai (Tia Carrere) is fighting for custody over her little sister, Lilo (Daveigh Chase). Lilo and Nani do not have the most stable relationship, which unfortunately makes Lilo consider them a "broken family". This also does not help matters with the Social Services agent Mr. Cobra Bubbles (Ving Rhames). Lilo prays for a friend, and that wish is granted when she meets Experiment #626 at a dog pound, who she names Stitch. One thing Lilo does not yet know about Stitch is his mischievous and often destructive behavior.
What primarily makes the film so delightful is the chemistry between Lilo and Stitch. First of all, it must be noted that each character in the film is fully developed and much more authentic than some animated films out there. Now Lilo and Stitch are so perfect together because they are such polar opposites, a type of combination that has worked before and works again here.
The Stitch character alone accounts for much of the film's laughs. He's wonderfully wicked, turning the film into his stomping ground, doing anything he wants to. Thankfully, though, he's not in the least bit annoying; that voice of his only gets funnier. One could say he is Disney's answer to Shrek, or possibly what Jar-Jar Binks should've been more like in "The Phantom Menace". When he meets Lilo, it is priceless to watch her try and tame him.
The film also features some of the most eye-pleasing watercolor animation I have seen in a while. That may be saying everything or nothing, considering how animation studios have mostly turned to 3-D computer generated animation (which is getting harder and harder to be impressed by), so any hand-drawn animation is bound to be refreshing. "Lilo and Stitch" is certainly a pretty example of the technique.
All this, and I found the film a little too short. I walked out of the theater not ready for the film to be over. The film could have benefited a little more time to stretch it's legs; a little more time for Stitch to muck around; simply a little more time in general. The filmmakers use the time they have to their advantage, but I felt that there were so many more opportunities that the film could have explored, especially with a character such as Stitch. If this film comes out with a sequel, I wouldn't object.
In a bleak season for animated films; filled mostly with cheap knockoffs and rip-offs ("Hey Arnold!"? "Powerpuff Girls"? Gimme a break), it is nice to see a film with originality, depth, and a finely tuned sense of humor. Oh, and it won't be over the kid's heads. "Lilo and Stitch" is the perfect film to enjoy with your children (notice how I did not say "take your children to").