Lilo and Stitch

Bomb Rating: 

When contemplating its dwindling supply of unproduced animated film concepts and deciding which to green-light for the 2002 summer season, Disney was apparently torn between two finalists: "sci fi romp" or "native family bonds with magical dog." The natural answer for risk-averse executives: Let's do both! In a single movie! The result blends about as well as Worldcom and Wall Street, Gary Condit and credibility, or the Catholic church and contrition. Sure, the amalgam is undeniably original, but so is a corned beef and banana milkshake.

Stitch is a vicious beast from an alien planet, created with spare genetic parts by scientists gone mad. Kinda like Joan Rivers. Banished to Space Prison, he escapes en route and makes his way to Earth, where he lands on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. There, he's adopted by young Lilo (Daveigh Chase), who's angry, combative, has no friends and can't relate to other human beings. Kinda like Russel Crowe. Lilo's sister, Nani (Tia Carrere), leads their household, but has trouble managing, especially once Stitch shows up with a legion of galactic pursuers on his tail. Lilo trains Stitch to improve himself by schooling him in Elvis routines, but despite getting mobbed by photographers in his cute little outfit, Stitch proves to have no real talent. Kinda like Anna Kournakova.

The plot lurches forward as Stitch is captured by one band of aliens, then escapes, then is captured by another band of aliens, then escapes. Stitch is supposed to be indestructible, so it seems odd that he's almost killed by such common ailments as drowning. Our female heroes reflect the fact that Disney seems to have gotten the memo about evolving beyond waifish protagonists with humongous breasts. However, this is Disney's 100th or so family-centered story where "Mom" is conspicuously absent. What ever problems Walt had with Mommy, do we really need to be still playing them out 80 years later?

En route, we get the full Hawaiian tour. We go to a luau. We surf. We hula. We beat up some haoles. We dance to Elvis music. We drive a gas truck into a volcano (just kidding on that last one -- that'd be way too stupid). In the end, we learn that all you need is ohana (the Hawaiian word for family) and once you have it, everything is pretty much hakuna matata. Ohana, we're told over and over again, means that no one's left behind. Someone tell that to Jeffrey Katzenberg, and maybe the unholy army of dead cartoon mothers Disney has stashed away somewhere.

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