Lilo & Stitch is a great movie that will most likely go overlooked. This being Disney animation's third modern attempt at an original story (Lion King and Dinosaurs being the others), I was going into this movie with high hopes and it really delivered.
Lilo & Stitch are about two characters, one a young Hawaiian girl and the other a dangerous and powerful alien. Funny thing is they both are more trouble to their handlers, but the girl is mostly innocent while the alien is treated as physically dangerous. At the foundation they are the same character but are from, literally, different worlds. Stitch (or 626 as the aliens call him) was created by a mad scientist and is considered a very dangerous and smart construct. Virtually invincible, Stitch's only weakness seems to be water. Stitch escapes his imprisonment and flies a spaceship into hyperdrive. The aliens send the mad scientist and another alien after him to the planet Earth.
We are then introduced to Lilo, a young Hawaiian girl who is swimming in the ocean. She gets out of the water and realizes that she is late for her dance lesson. She comes in all wet and ends up creating a bit of havoc, even going so far as to punch and bite one of her dancemates. Did I say Lilo was innocent? She is not totally innocent, but this is the only real violent scene we see with her. We find out that Lilo's sister Nani is taking care of her. We later find out that Lilo and Nani's parents were killed in a car accident. A Social Service worker, named Cobra Bubbles, comes to look at how Lilo is doing. He does not like what he sees and gives Nani some time to straighten things out. As Lilo goes to bed she prays for an angel to come and be her friend after she sees Stitch's spacecraft fall down thinking it is a falling star.
Stitch is run over by a few semis and he pops the wheels on all of them. He is then brought to the local pet store where he scares away all the other pets. Nani and Lilo come in to look for a pet and Lilo ends up picking Stitch and giving him a name. The mad scientist and cohort are on Stitch's trail, but they cannot fire upon Lilo. The funny part here is that the scientist says that Stitch will immediately look for a big city and proceed to destroy it. Sure enough Stitch goes looking for a big city but finds that he is trapped on an island with no big city to destroy.
The rest of the movie involves Stitch getting everyone into trouble (mostly unintentional), Nani losing her job and Lilo in danger of being taken away from her family. The key thing in this movie is the term "Ohana", which means family and the fact that you never leave them behind and you never forget them. In the most basic form, both Lilo and Stitch are alone in the world by themselves, but together they are so much more. There is even a point where Lilo says to Stitch that everything is his fault and that makes him feel bad. Stitch eventually comes to realize, through the book "Ugly Duckling", that he is truly lost and alone. He also comes to realize that through Lilo and Nani he has also found a family and he tries to right the wrongs he has caused.
I think this movie will be very overlooked, which is quite sad. I can say that most people in the theater I went to seemed to enjoy the movie and seemed to laugh a lot. I certainly enjoyed this film, as did the people who went with me. In terms of story and sentimentality, this film is leaps and bounds above Atlantis: The Lost Empire from last year. I would also go so far as to say the animation is some of the best Disney Animation has put forward in a while. They rely on 3D in some points, but it is not as apparent as it was in Atlantis and this movie is certainly more hand-drawn than 3D drawn. This movie reaches into the recent Disney animated past for inspiration. The one fault I can give this movie is that the teasers with other Disney characters may make people think the characters are in this film, but they are not.
Another thing about this movie is the reliance on Elvis music. Lilo even uses Elvis as inspiration for Stitch to be a model citizen. She even dresses up Stitch to look like Elvis and brings him through several funny scenes revolving around Elvis. It is great to hear Elvis in a movie again and this movie could do a lot for the young people to notice Elvis if they have not already.
Final Thoughts: Lilo & Stitch is an excellent movie. I have no problem recommending it above recent animated movies like Shrek and Ice Age. For reference, I disliked the former and liked the latter. This movie still sits a little below the recent Monsters Inc., but easily tugs at your heart much like that movie did. In Stitch it also has an easily loveable character even though he is dangerous and violent. Where Shrek and Ice Age have a weakness is where Monsters Inc. and Lilo & Stitch hold their strongest cards: tugging at your feelings and making you feel as if you are part of the story. They are also very good at making you feel like you have things in common with the characters either in the past or the present. Studios outside of Disney may never grasp this power they have over both children and adults, and that will keep Disney at the top of the animation ladder for years to come. People may come for the animation, but they will leave remembering the story and the moral. Highly Recommended.