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Lilo and Stitch

01/10/2002. Contributed by Frank Ochieng

Buy Lilo and Stitch in the USA - or Buy Lilo and Stitch in the UK

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More SF movie action for Frank. 'Alien'-ation from another planet takes a Hawaiian vacation in the cute but thinly breezy sci-fi animation flick "Lilo & Stitch".

Film review by Frank Ochieng
Date Released: 06/21/2002
Rated: PG-13 (for mild sci-fi action)
Length: 85 minutes
Produced by: Clark Spencer
Directed by: Chris Sanders, Dean DeBlois
Cast: voiced by Tia Carrerre, Ving Rhames, David Ogden Stiers, Zoe Caldwell, Daveigh Chase, Christopher Michael Sanders
Distributor: Disney Pictures

The animated kiddie feature "Lilo & Stitch" could be considered a safe and amiable vehicle for the powers-that-be at the Disney stable. But that's probably this movie's main downfall--it's TOO safe in a time where the sophisticated outlook of cinema animation is progressive and the plotline is challenging to the youthful audience's mindset.

Movie review of Lilo and StitchAlthough the simplicity of "Lilo & Stitch's" animation is a nostalgic throwback to the Disney feature length cartoons of the past, this feel-good showcase about a rejected blue-skinned, toothy extraterrestrial who ends up getting adopted by a temperamental Hawaiian little girl named Lilo is indeed a thinly-cut and breezy sci-fi animated flick without much emotion or imagination.

But just the same, it's winsome enough to pass as mild, cuddly family entertainment for the tots to consider with ambivalent appreciation.

The eerily close semblance of "Lilo & Stitch's" adventures may recall the copycat whimsical overtones of "E.T." although one may not be sure that's an advantageous or regrettable thing to endorse.

Whatever its intentions, "Lilo & Stitch" may end up as one of the many missed opportunities for Disney standing on the sidelines as a third stringer while its contemporaries like "Shrek", "Monsters, Inc.", "Toy Story" or "The Lion King" will continue to capture the hearts of the millions of moviegoers long after their departure from the big screen.

Stitch (Christopher Michael Sanders) is a space alien from the planet Turo. Originally known as Experiment 626, Stitch's physical appearance is reminiscent of a cross between a souped-up and space-aged koala bear with buzz saw teeth and a blue smurf. Anyway, this galaxy-produced furball was the invention of a sinister four-eyed scientist named Jumba (David Ogden Stiers).

Anyway, Stitch's presence on Turo is not welcomed and soon he's banished to a "prison planet". In a matter of time, Stitch escapes to the comforts of Earth where he lands in the earthling paradise of Hawaii.

It's in a Hawaiian animal shelter that Stitch is spotted by the bratty little gal Lilo who soon adopts the blue-haired space creature. Lilo mistakes Stitch for "an odd-looking dog" and is responsible for giving him his current moniker. The duo soon bond and start to engage in everything from topics ranging from Elvis Presley to surfing.

In the meanwhile, Lilo is being taken care of by her 19-year old sister/guardian Nani (Tia Carrere). All this is under the watchful eye of a social worker (Ving Rhames) who's not convinced that the teen Nani can provide appropriately for her wayward younger sibling Lilo.

Just like the spaced-out oddball Stitch is in search of acceptance within the confines of a solid family, the movie is in search of a stimulating script. Although the message in this film is well-intentioned about a couple of displaced souls looking for comfort and support is a viable concept for kids to grasp, the end result doesn't add up despite the noble attempt.

The tandem of both Lilo and Stitch is trivialized by the rudimentary moments such as Stitch shoving food down his throat as if there's no tomorrow or speaking in a cutesy yet incoherent meaningless language. In an age where youngsters are snappy and hip, the antics of this bug-eyed space invader and his newly appointed Hawaiian family become something of a disposable showcase.

Somehow the connection between the curious creature and his moody little gal pal doesn't register anything remotely intriguing. There are some scenes that produce some of the static that the kiddies will probably respond to: see Lilo and Stitch wreak some havoc on the islands, see the bad guys (notably Jumba and a Turo henchman) apply pressure on the duo's relationship, see the pair overcome the adversity of those who don't understand their union, etc.

This is all well and good but several parts of this movie come off as deliriously stagey and obvious.

There's not much to say about the development of Stitch as the breakout character because essentially he's bland and one-dimensional and probably the most annoying pet protagonist since the likes of cloying kiddie caricatures Barney the dinosaur and Smoochy.

"Lilo & Stitch" may keep each other company in the landscape of the animated Hawaiian haven created by the Disney machine, but there's other obscure company to be considered as well. Remember the "eventful" presence of "Atlantis: The Lost Empire" from last summer?

It certainly won't be long before moviegoers will be asking the same question of the good-spirited but notoriously mediocre cartoonish sci-fi kiddie yarn "Lilo & Stitch".

Much like good ol' Stitch, this lackluster production feels very "alien" to us.

Frank rates this film: ** stars (out of 4 stars)

Frank Ochieng

(c) Frank Ochieng 2002

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