Reviewed by: Michelle Mauldin
Starring: Tia Carrere, David Ogden Stiers, Zoe Caldwell, Kevin Michael Richardson, Daveigh Chase | Directed by: Chris Sanders, Dean DeBlois | Produced by: Clark Spencer | Written by: Dean DeBlois, Chris Sanders, Alan Silvestri | Distributor: Walt Disney
“Lilo and Stitch” is filled with a wide range of characters, for a movie that appeals to almost all ages: a pair of orphaned sisters, the older struggling against all odds to care for the younger; a threatening social worker breathing down the sisters’ necks; a handsome young surfer/fire juggler who tries to romance the older sister; a dangerous fugitive from another galaxy loose in Hawaii who looks like a six-legged blue koala with razor-sharp teeth; the crazed scientist who created the fugitive and has followed him to Hawaii to capture him; a hilarious one-eyed alien who has been ordered to accompany the scientist to keep him out of trouble; and a menacing giant with a thirst for violence and revenge.
Put all these characters and storylines together, and you’ve got a whopper of a movie, full of suspense, action, and heart-tugging moments. The sisters’ characters are multi-dimensional, giving the story some substance, as they struggle to survive after their parents are killed in a car accident. This fact is only briefly mentioned, but was enough to make me cringe because of all the very young children (under 7) in the audience, whose parents probably thought they were going to see a cutesy cartoon about a fluffy little critter named Stitch… who turns out to be NOT so cute and fluffy after all! There were many heavy moments in this film, and one particularly sad scene had a young boy behind me worriedly ask his mother, “What’s going to happen?” She didn’t answer him, I suspect because she didn’t know how to explain in a few short seconds the adult topic of children being taken away from caretakers who love them but are failing them.
While there are no scenes with alcohol/drug use, sexual situations or swearing, there’s plenty of cartoon-style violence, meaning no blood or gore but lots of gun-fighting and explosions. There’s a book about voodoo, a near-drowning, a house that gets torn to pieces during a battle, and a few scenes showing physical rage on the parts of the sisters (understandable under the circumstances, but this is a kids’ movie, after all). There are a few gross-out moments, as well, including a tongue-in-the-nose picking, a saliva wash of a window, lugie-spitting, and a mooning by Stitch, which looks like a stuffed animal’s rear end against the window.
What’s good about this film? For older Christian kids, pre-teen and up, this is a well-drawn animated film that explores a whole range of emotions and topics while leading them through an exciting chase and giving them plenty of laughs to take the edge off the heavy stuff. Even the hard topics are softened by humor in most cases. The film shows the value of unconditional love, as the created-for-violence Stitch ends up finding his heart through the love of little Lilo. Parents of younger children will cringe and squirm throughout the movie, though, and may want to bring a notebook to keep track of all the things they’ll want to talk about later. The older kids know better, but leave the little ones at home.