While "Lilo and Stitch" seemed to get some of the more positive reviews of an in-house Disney animated feature in a few years, I found it to be the least entertaining of the many terrific animated films ("Spirit", "Ice Age", "Treasure Planet", "Spirited Away") this year. Although I've warmed up to "Lilo" after the second viewing, I still find one of the film's main characters irritating and the jokes largely unfunny.
The film opens on a far-off planet, where scientist Jumba (David Ogden Stiers) has just gone against the laws of the planet by creating Stitch, an unstoppable little monster who's got a rude sense of humor and whose focus is destroying pretty much everything. In the middle of being sent far away, Stitch escapes and heads towards Earth on a stolen ship, crash-landing in Hawaii.
Meanwhile, a little girl named Lilo (Daveigh Chase) is living with her older sister (Tia Carrere), who is barely able to keep control over the sometimes bratty Lilo, who is still trying to adjust to having her sister being her parent. Tension arrives in the form of an intimiding social worker named Bubbles (voiced by Ving Rhames), who is skeptical that Nani can take care of her younger sister. At the local pound, Lilo runs into "Experiment 626", the little escaped alien monster, who she renames Stitch.
Of course, the two become fast friends, even if Stitch continues to cause trouble whereever he goes. Things are complicated when the scientist and an assistant are forced to venture to Earth to bring back Stitch - any way possible.
"Lilo and Stitch" suffers from several problems. The film's sappiness level is unusually high - while a message is good in animated films like this one, "Lilo and Stitch" pushes its messages at a rate of what seems like every few moments. Also, a couple of early yelling matches between Lilo and her sister are headache-inducing. Some of the jokes with the two aliens following Stitch aren't particularly funny and there are stretches where the film really doesn't succeed at either comedy or drama. Stitch still remains the film's best character - some of his scenes (such as the moment where he plays "Godzilla" with Lilo's miniature city in her room) are very amusing. Stitch's transformation from destructive creature to a part of Lilo and Nani's "family" is also nicely handled.
"Lilo and Stitch" is one of the few recent animated films that is made up of only traditional animation, apparently with little or no computer assistance. The animation isn't spectacular and it does have a rather "soft" appearance at times, but the film's use of color is enjoyable. Overall, "Lilo and Stitch" remains a decent animated feature, in my opinion - one that kids will likely enjoy more than adults.
VIDEO: "Lilo and Stitch" is presented by Disney in 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen. Although the film's animation isn't as striking as some of the computer animated pictures of recent years, it still looks quite nice on this DVD presentation. Sharpness and detail are excellent throughout; while this film's animation has a somewhat "soft" quality, it still looks crisp and attractive here.
While the animation is good, but not magnificent, the way that the transfer presents it certainly is superb - there's not a scratch to be found on the print used, while no edge enhancement or pixelation was found. The film's vivid and rich color palette also looked stellar, appearing well-saturated and bright, with no smearing. The presentation is THX-Certified.
SOUND: "Lilo and Stitch" is presented by Disney in Dolby Digital 5.1. While it's too bad that no DTS option is offered, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack was more than satisfactory. Although not terribly aggressive (aside from Stitch's escape in the opening and the film's final sequences), I appreciated the little things about this mix: the way it presented the Hawaiian-themed score with exceptional clarity, detail and warmth and the occasional ambience and smooth use of the surrounds to fill the room with the score and the occasional sound effect. Dialogue also remained crisp and clear. While not outstanding, this was certainly still an enjoyable listening experience.
EXTRAS: While Disney usually releases a "Collector's Edition" of their animated titles at the same time or near the basic release, surprisingly, there has been no announcement of a "Stitch" special edition. Still, there's a few supplements here that will likely be of interest to fans of the film.
Teaser Trailers: "Stitch"'s teaser trailers had the character entering into the world of some of the other Disney cartoons (Beauty and the Beast, etc.). Four (Stitch with: Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Little Mermaid and Lion King) teasers - which I believe are all there was - are included here. The "Lion King" teaser is easily the funniest of the four, in my opinion.
On Location With the Directors: This is a fairly rough (but better for it) featurette that lasts nearly twenty minutes. Thankfully, this isn't one of those wacky, perky featurettes that takes a look at the process in-between lots of promotion, but a down-to-earth and occasionally quite funny mix of clips looking at the animation process, recording the voices and other steps along the way. Quite honestly, I'd call this the disc's best supplement.
Featurettes: "Young Voices of Hawaii", "The Look of Lilo and Stitch" and "Animating the Hula" are the three production-related featurettes included. Although "Voices" is fine, the "Look" and "Hula" pieces are more interesting, as they take a good - if very brief - look at the animation process. All three featurettes are only a few minutes each.
Also: "Disneypedia" informative featurette on Hawaii; "A Stitch in Time" parody featurette, with Stitch's place in Disney history; "Hula Lesson" featurette; "I Can't Help Falling in Love With You", A-Teens music vid; "Burning Love" - Behind the Scenes W/Winona Judd; 3 deleted scenes w/intros; interactive game and THX optimizer a/v tests.
Final Thoughts: While I liked "Lilo and Stitch" better the second time, I'm still not crazy about it and have liked several other animated films from this year - "Spirit" and especially "Ice Age" and "Spirited Away" - better. Still, Disney has produced a very nice basic DVD edition and kids may find the film more entertaining. Recommended.