Action Movie Friday: Lilo & Stitch

It is time for Action Movie Friday, where I treat an action movie like an action movie and not like a drama and stuff. All movie reviews are subjective and while I may like something, you might think it’s shit, and vice versa!

Title: Lilo & Stitch
MPAA Rating: PG
Release: 2002
Genre: action, adventure, science fiction, animation
Starring: Daviegh Chase, Chris Sanders, Tia Carrere, David Ogden Stiers, Kevin McDonald, Ving Rhames, Zoe Caldwell, Jason Scott Lee, Kevin Michael Richardson
Director: Chris Sanders, Dan Deblois
Writer: Chris Sanders, Dan Deblois
Distributor: Disney
Budget: $80 Million
Box Office: $273 Million

what the hell, this trailer is awful!

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 86%

Gingersnaps Rating: Five Cookies!

Summary:

The illegal genetic experiment, 626, has escaped custody and fled to the protected planet of Earth. He lands in Kauai, Hawaii, a small island with no large cities. Where in order to protect himself from his pursuers he becomes the pet of the lonely child, Lilo. Lilo’s sister Nani is doing everything she can to keep their family together. But the social worker, Cobra Bubbles, has given them three days to prove themselves. Stitch’s destructive programming kicks in, but what is he to do when there is nothing for him to destroy? Can Lilo teach him to be good?

Review:

If you want an unbiased review of this movie, go elsewhere.

Lilo & Stitch is my favorite Disney movie. I loved The Little Mermaid as a child, but as an adult, Lilo & Stitch took the Little Mermaid’s place. Not sorry, Ariel.

Back in the early 2000s, apparently movie goers were turning away from 2D animation and really enjoying 3D animation instead. I get it. Finding Nemo came out a year later. Colleges were having a Veggietales craze, even secular colleges. (I remember. I was there. Scary.) 2001 was the year of Shrek. This was not time of power house princesses on Disney’s end. And honestly, talking animals and princesses are really what Disney is known for. So, aliens and science fiction (Lilo & Stitch) and steampunk fantasy (Atlantis) is really out of the box for Disney outside of Fantasia!

I have to applaud Disney for taking the risk. Even though to many people the early 2000s was just a flop for Disney movie wise. And by the end of the decade they went back to what they were known for doing things like The Princess & The Frog (which I do like) and Tangled (which I also like.) They just weren’t as out of the box as say, Lilo & Stitch.

Part of the problem might have been the original marketing for Lilo & Stitch. The short teasers were Stitch crashing other Disney movies and being told quite huffily by various other Disney characters to “Get your own movie!” Instead of trying to sell Lilo & Stitch as its own thing, they tried to piggy back off of their previous successes. By the time the full length trailer came around, I’m not sure if it was well received. I wasn’t paying attention back then. (College!) I do remember some digs at the premise of the movie, Earth being a haven for mosquitoes and why aliens. I was enjoying the movie too much to care. Because I love science fiction and whacky silly things are right up my alley.

And this movie has a lot of whacky silliness that slams right into heartbreaking realities. Many times it feels that Disney glosses over their non-traditional families in their films. Triton is a single father of seven girls. Belle’s father is a widower as well. Beast is an orphan. Snow White is in a blended family. Lilo & Stitch, like Mrs. Doubtfire, is one of the rare movies that the non-traditional family is explicitly recognized in the film and is a main part of the story, rather than the focus being the heroine’s journey.

Sure, there are Elvis songs, surfing and funny sight gags over alien culture shock. Then there is the story of a little girl who is being raised by her sister, who is poor, who has to make do with what she has and still tries to make friends. Her circumstances that aren’t any fault of her own and her inability to have what other girls have on the island make her feel ostracized and different, so she lashes out. Unintentionally making things harder for her sister who is doing her best to keep them together. Because Lilo is a little girl. (Yay for a well characterized child.)

Stitch doesn’t help matters. He hasn’t been taught to behave. He doesn’t know how. There really is some good and possibly unintentional commentary here about how a conscience works and boundary setting and well, parenting. There are some theories that no one is actually born with a conscience, they have to grow one as they learn right and wrong from their parents. That’s why it’s important to teach about morals and ethics while a child is young.

Others may call this rubbish. I have no idea. Nature, nurture, mental illnesses, there’s a lot going on in the brain. The point being is that Stitch has never been encouraged to be helpful or kind or to share or have manners. To ask him to change his behavior in three days is a daunting task and not helped by Jumba trying to kidnap him. Something that Lilo, Nani and Cobra Bubbles don’t realize is happening.

Somehow, despite these three very interesting and two of them very emotionally heavy plots, the story remains balanced. The conflicts are all given equal screen time and equal importance. The ending feels like a true victory instead of being trite or “Disneyed.” The characters are believable.

Oh, and not to mention, outside of the aliens who we can’t really classify as a particular skin tone or race, all the main characters are POC. Lilo and Nani are Polynesian looking. Cobra Bubbles is a black man. David looks to be partially Asian. A couple of the little girls that Lilo interacts with were Caucasian along with some tourists, but that was it. And this was the early 2000s! And never once was their race an issue in the story. They were simply people! This makes me so happy.

So, one majorly awesome cookie!

When I first watched this movie, I was sitting there watching one scene where Jumba and Stitch pass the gun back and forth thinking “they aren’t going to go there. They aren’t. Holy Shit, they are!” And so, yeah, there are other explosions, but that one really stood out for me. One cookie.

The fights are really funny. They are punny. They call on jokes. They remind you of the fights you have with your siblings and parents. In short, they’re entertaining. One Cookie.

And let’s talk Nani here in the women’s section of my review. I love Lilo and Lilo is great. But I really, really want to talk about Nani. Because Nani is the character type that gets taken for granted despite the fact of how rare she actually is. The basic premise of Nani’s character is that she loves Lilo. That she’s doing everything she can to keep her and Lilo together to be as much of a family as they can be. But in some ways, Nani is a better parent than most parents. She says it herself. She understands Lilo. The greatest thing about Nani is that she lets Lilo be who Lilo is instead of trying to change her.

She lets Lilo take pictures of the tourists on the beach and even prints them out. Even though Nani doesn’t understand the appeal. She doesn’t discourage Lilo about the pet lobster, just says they have a dog door, not a lobster door. She knows that if Lilo is told Stitch isn’t a name, that Lilo will just come up with something else and discourages the SPCAA owner to go along with Stitch as a name. When Nani and Lilo have a fight. Nani apologizes for her part of it! She promises not to yell at Lilo unless it’s a special occasion.

And I wish, I wish, there were more adults who respected their children as much as Nani respects Lilo. Another majorly awesome cookie. (Really, I’m trying not to sniffle here. An Adult that respects a child enough to apologize to them and feeds their interests. If I was a parent, I hope I could be that type of parent.)

The universe is fun and whacky. Things are said and shown early on enough that you can believe that Stich is as indestructible as he needs to be to fit the plot of the movie. If I had a gripe, it’d be the gas tanker thing in the volcano. But, I’d really rather not spread around the true science about gas and explosions to little kids. So, I’m willing to give Disney leeway on that one. There are just some things little kids that this movie is aimed at don’t need to know. For everyone’s safety, because I have nephews and know how little boys can be. One cookie.

Lilo and Stitch is both an entertaining and thought provoking movie with believable characters and heartwarming moments. I love this movie. Strongly recommend this movie for a multitude of reasons and wish it got better press. FIVE AWESOME Gingersnaps!

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