Lilo & Stitch

Lilo & Stitch ★★★★

Science fiction, Elvis Presley, and the importance of family in any form are the genre, rhythmic, and thematic threads that bind "Lilo & Stitch," a buoyant and raucous animated adventure. Featuring an incorrigible alien and his adopted Hawaiian family, the Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders-directed film is a big-hearted, beautifully rendered, and fully entertaining piece of work.

Beginning somewhere in the reaches of outer-space, "Lilo & Stitch" finds a tiny-yet-powerful alien creature, a rogue scientific experiment, landing on planet Earth where he is adopted by young Lilo and her older sister. Pursued by interplanetary captors and wreaking all manner of havoc on Lilo and her sister's attempt to create domestic normalcy, the newly named Stitch chomps and charms his way through a series of adventures.

The story works well; however, its power is not in its science fiction tropes but in its more Earth-bound themes. The stresses on Lilo and her sister are at the narrative's forefront and the struggle to maintain jobs, raise a solid young person, and heal from loss give the film a robust weight. An observation that real family can come in any shape and the idea that those who stray from the norm or are, simply, different create vibrancy in life build a potent emotional and intellectual foundation for the film. These themes imbue the story with engaging layers.

Also layered is the film's lovely aesthetic. Hand-drawn and computer assisted characters interact against soft and sumptuous water-color backgrounds. Hawaii's natural beauty is captured in colorful, tropical stokes, and the entire production stands as a tribute to an almost-forgotten art. Characters and creatures are fully realized, and personalities are communicated with ease through sturdy voice-talent and distinctive design. The film bounces with spirited energy but slows necessarily to allow the film's heart to shine through the film's more adventuresome sequences. Well-placed songs by Elvis and enchanting local melodies provide musical electricity.

"Lilo & Stitch" is a hand-drawn gem made at a time when Disney was turning its attention to newer technologies. Pulsing with heart and smarts, the film entertains and tells an important story. It all provides a well-rounded, good looking, and completely appealing experience.

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