Lilo and Stitch (2002) — Back when Disney was making subversive cartoons

“Oh good! My dog’s found a chainsaw!”

Justin’s rating: Pulp Fiction meets Disney?

Justin’s review: This is what animation should always be used for, folks: sick, twisted, and highly amusing entertainment. Long gone are Disney’s glory days of producing powerful masterpieces of animation that had everyone in the world enthralled and singing musical numbers until it became illegal for you to utter the words “Hakuna Matata” unless you really liked long stretches in a damp concrete cell. Nowadays, Disney animation seems mostly devoted to producing forgettable, pathetic cartoons, and getting their mouse butts handed to them on a platter by computer animated flicks.

Fortunately for us, Disney’s lack of caring anymore means that they let about anyone waltz into their animation studios and try their hand out. A while back, a few lonely boys asked the question, “What would it be like if you had a talking llama with the voice of David Spade?” and The Emperor’s New Groove was conceived into the world kicking and screaming.

Lilo and Stitch throws out a possible, hypothetical situation in which a rabid genetically-created space alien demon prison-escapee meets up with a chronically depressed four-year old Hawaiian girl. C’mon, I know you had this idea first, but since you lack the drawing skills of a nervous chimpanzee, Disney took the fumble and ran for the home run.

I didn’t foster any intention of reviewing this movie prior to watching it, but if there was ever an animated flick worthy of our demented audience’s attention, this is it. First of all, it’s so incredibly bizarre that I’m not quite sure I wasn’t drugged, pumped for ideas, and then hypnotized to forget about the whole experience. It’s Justin-brand odd. I’ve been wondering where that hole in my skull came from, anyway.

Stitch is a koala-dog-alien-thing, basically every destructive movie critter rolled up into a marketable package, while little Lilo has a serious dent in her sense of reality. There’s a good match. The visuals are crisp, and even though you’ll be looking at everyone’s two-foot-wide noses, it’s impossible not to love the colors splashed about. This is Hawaii, of course. And while I’m sure there’s a Disneyish morality message hidden within (such as “Michael Eisner is God — All bow before his mighty advertising machine!”), I don’t really care. Lilo and Stitch has, hands-down, some of the most outrageous and quotable dialogue found in a cartoon, ever.

You may doubt me; after all, I’m the one who got you to watch Bad Taste and you’re almost all healed from that. Please, put aside these petty differences and prejudices, because if you let them stand in the way you’ll not only miss an antic and witty cult classic, but I’ll also call you names. Demeaning ones, including references to your heritage.

Just in case you don’t think Lilo and Stitch has a place in the cult pantheon, at one point Stitch gets ahold of a chainsaw and goes medieval on some aliens. Every good cult film has a character with a chainsaw. Also: Pudge controls the weather. Don’t forget the peanut butter sandwiches.

PoolMan’s rating: Another movie featuring an alien whose weakness is water… how surprising!

PoolMan’s review: Okay. Seriously. Disney needs to check their security system. Somebody snuck into their studio in the middle of the night and produced an entire picture that’s just… so… WEIRD. One of the big perks of the Mutant Reviewers, from before I worked here till today, is that I’m constantly being told about movies that I’d probably never watch by people who are just as strange as me. Behold, the payoff: Lilo and Stitch.

There’s a lot of little things to appreciate in this flick. The relative size difference between Gantu and Stitch, for one. Actually, the size difference between Gantu and just about everyone else. It makes a whack of sense that a council of alien life would feature aliens of radically different shapes and sizes. The details that permeate cartoon-Hawaii are great, it’s a very pretty backdrop to set the whole movie against. Heck, the use of Elvis Presley as a moral compass for a homicidally crazy alien is original like nobody’s business, and it’s all fun. It’s the little things, sometimes.

But, at the same time, there’s some weirdness to the story. The way Earth is viewed at the beginning of the movie doesn’t mesh at ALL with the end. And I base that on events that would have happened 30 years before the story takes place. Also, there’s some oddness with Stitch coming around… instead of feeling realistically and gradually changed, he just kind of alters his entire personality over one night. Feels like some heavy script rewrites. But biggest of all, and the strongest “anti-Disney” trait of the whole shebang? There’s NO BAD GUY. Watch the movie all the way to the end, and ask yourself who the villain is. With the minor exception of Gantu’s hurt feelings, everybody’s on the same damn side of the fence by movie’s end. If that floats your boat, great. It drove me nuts.

Anyways, don’t let me detract you from the truth: this is probably the funniest thing to roll out from under The Rat in years and years. Put on your best sequined jumpsuit and give it a whirl.

Lissa’s review: Sometimes you have to wonder at the mind that put certain combinations together. Like peanut butter and chocolate. While Reese’s peanut butter cups are arguably some of the best things on Earth, I don’t really think it sounds like that logical of a combination. Or Diet Coke and ketchup. If you cook them together long enough, you’ll make a thick barbecue sauce — or so I’ve been told. I’ve never had the guts (or been that desperate) to try it. There are combinations only a certain type of mind will put together. Some fail spectacularly (such as my sister’s famous combination of green food coloring and chocolate chip cookies). Others, against conventional logic, work.

Lilo and Stitch do not belong in the same movie. Stitch is a slobbering, driven force of entropy, with a conveniently blue and fluffy and cuddly appearance despite the fact he is intended to be a weapon of mass destruction. He is clearly fully enjoying his role, given the maniacal gleam in his eyes as he hijacks vehicles and wreaks havoc wherever he can. In fact, he seems a bit dejected when he begins his transition into civilization, and who can blame him? It’s so much more fun to destroy things. Stitch is the ultimate cross between a guy with a power-tool obsession and a toddler with way too much sugar.

Lilo, on the other hand, is a depressed, Elvis-fixated little girl. She’s obsessive, over-dramatic, and completely oblivious to her own flaws. In other hands, Lilo would turn into the centerpiece of a Hallmark moment. The combination of the two shouldn’t work. But it does.

After a dramatic escape from permanent exile, Stitch (voiced by writer and director Chris Sanders) lands in Hawaii. Yeah. Poor thing. He manages to be adopted as a dog by Lilo (voiced by Daveigh Chase), who is trying to cope with the loss of her parents. While Lilo remains blissfully unaware that her dog is really an illegal genetic experiment from outer space, her older sister and caretaker Nani (Tia Carrere) has a bit more of a clue that something is not right. Unfortunately, since she’s busy trying to make ends meet, prove she can take care of her little sister, and keep her own boyfriend interested, Nani doesn’t exactly have time to deal with it, leading to extremely bizarre adventures and one of the strangest endings I have ever seen in a movie.

Lilo and Stitch is a fun movie, and worth seeing for the title pair alone. However, although Stitch received the marketing, Lilo was one of the most real characters I’ve seen Disney create in a long time. She’s imaginative in that bizarre, half-sensical way that children are, completely open and devoid of guilt (“I read her diary”), and has a lot of anger and grief she just can’t cope with. But her relationship with her older sister Nani was, for me, the centerpiece of the movie. I have a younger sister and I swear we have shouted some of the exact same lines, word for word, at each other in our moments of sibling rivalry. The love/hate relationship between the girls is extremely genuine and comes across well. Additionally, Nani is not the typical Disney guardian. She’s real, present, and just as confused as Lilo is. Nani doesn’t have all the answers, and is very painfully aware of that.

What bothered me most was the ending to this movie. This story line reminded me very much of my younger brother telling stories when he was a little kid. He’d go on and on with this fantastic, creative story, then he’d get bored and resolve the whole thing in two sentences that just didn’t really relate to the rest of the movie. I think a four-year-old had a hand in helping write Lilo and Stitch. Same bizarre brilliance, same sort of ending. However, it’s such a strange ending that it might fit. I don’t know. I haven’t decided.

It is a Disney movie, and that means it has to have its sugar coated moral. I know, I know, this can be annoying. But on the other hand, the moral is family unity, love, and devotion. It’s a movie about acceptance — of those you love and events you can’t change, and fighting to change what you can. In the world we’re living in today, it’s a nice moral to hear. And when it’s delivered by a fluffy blue critter that can barely speak English and drools as he says it, it can’t be too nauseating, now can it?

It has flaws. It has sugar coating. It’s produced by Disney, which some argue is the legal face of the devil himself. (I’d argue that that would be Microsoft, but that’s a debate for another time.) But regardless, Lilo and Stitch is a heck of a lot of fun to watch. Now hand me some pixie sticks and crank the Elvis!

Didja notice?

  • Lilo’s doll and its sad story
  • Lilo sadly mouthing the words to Elvis
  • Lilo’s into voodoo! Hee!
  • C’mon, Stitch getting run over by three trucks while the frog watched was pretty darn hilarious!
  • San Francisco bites the dust to Stitch-Godzilla
  • Stitch is Samus from Metroid, transforming into a little ball and rolling around
  • Chris Sanders, one of the directors of the film, also provides the voice of Stitch
  • A Dumbo doll appears in the easel in Lilo’s bedroom. This is a nod to the inspiration of watercolor backgrounds that were used in the film.
  • A Chinese restaurant that the characters pass is called Mulan Wok, a reference to Disney’s Mulan. There is also a poster of Mulan on the wall of Nani’s bedroom.
  • The character of Cobra Bubbles greatly resembles the gangster from Pulp Fiction, Marcellus Wallace (both played by Ving Rhames). He even has the same earring.
  • Many of the aliens are inspired by Disney characters, including Piglet and Tigger from Winnie the Pooh.
  • There are several “hidden Mickeys” in the movie – one can be seen in the Grand Council scene, on Jumba’s platform. Another can be seen as a logo on the shorts of one of Lilo’s photographic subjects on the wall of her room.
  • Near the beginning of the film, during the trial, Stich is asked by the council woman to provide some sign that he understands what’s going on. Stitch responds by licking the inside of his glass cage. The saliva trail is in the shape of the famous ‘D’ in the Walt Disney logo.
  • When Pleakley dresses in a female disguise it is an obvious reference to Kevin McDonald’s days on Kids in the Hall.
  • All of the license plates in the film (VW, Nani’s car, the fire engine, and Cobra Bubbles’ car) are A113. The same as Mrs. Davis’s plate number in Toy Story. The A113 on the license plates can be found in almost every Disney movie. It is a reference to a room number at California Institue of the Arts.
  • The two hovercar presents given to Lilo and Stitch make the same sounds as the flying cars in The Jetsons.
  • The fat guy just never gets his ice cream, poor dear.
  • The councilwoman mispronounces the name “Earth” at the beginning of the movie, and talks about it like she’s never heard of it. At the end, it’s strongly suggested she has been here before, and even remembers the faces of some of the inhabitants.

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