The thing I noticed about Lilo & Stitch the first time I watched it was how “soft” all the character designs were. It seemed like the animators were trying to remove all sharpness from everything if possible, and I really liked it.
After being sentenced to exile by the Galactic Federation, 626 escapes enroute and steals a ship, which he then promptly crashes into the mountains of Kaua’i on Earth. Nani (voiced by Tia Carrere) takes care of her little sister, Lilo (voiced by Daveigh Chase). They have lived alone together since their parents were killed in a car accident.
Lilo has an extremely active imagination and a mean streak of stubbornness, frequently causing Nani to lose her jobs. On top of all that, child services is threatening to remove Lilo from Nani’s care if she can’t show she is responsible enough.
Enter 626, who manages to throw wrenches into everyones’ gears after he is adopted by Lilo. While 626—named “Stitch” by Lilo—is trying to keep from being recaptured, he starts to learn more about Lilo and human life in general. I really loved how the directors showed how everything was affecting Stitch and how he began to learn from those experiences.
I loved the general look of everything in Lilo & Stitch; it makes me smile every time I see it. The backgrounds were all done in watercolors, helping to soften the feel of the animation, and giving the film a “picture postcard” look. It made me want to visit Hawai’i again.
The Hawai’ian music was excellent, and it really helped set the stage and draw me into the film. The King’s music was used to good effect, too. The more-standard-fare music used for the exciting parts was, well, pretty standard, and could have been slotted into any film with exciting parts.
I really loved the interaction between Nani and Lilo. I could tell Lilo really got under Nani’s skin, and Lilo knew it, but despite all the stereotypical sibling rivalry, I could also tell the sisters really loved each other, and that they were still trying to figure out how to deal with the loss of their parents.
I’ve seen children who lost a parent to an untimely death, and how they react and act out, so this really brought that part home to me. Even though we don’t get inside the sisters’ heads, enough is expressed throughout the film to convey how deeply the accident affected them. The overarching theme of “ohana” (family) simply permeates everything about the film, and it does it without beating you over the head with the message.
Even with the very minor issues I mention here, Lilo & Stitch is so strong in all the other areas that those weaknesses fade to insignificance. The film has solid messages for every age group, and can be enjoyed by everyone. I highly recommend it.
Release Date: June 21, 2002 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Sexuality: 1 (swimsuits and dance costumes, very minor)
Violence: 2 (science fiction action and gunfights, sisterly fights)