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LILO & STITCH
2 Disc Big Wave Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Voices: Daveigh Chase, Chris Sanders, Tia Carrere, Jason Scott Lee, David Ogden Stires, Ving Rhames
Directors: Chris Sanders, Dean Deblois
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Surround, Spanish Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.66:1
Studio: Disney
Features: See Review
Length: 85 Minutes
Release Date:
March 24, 2009

“Come on, what’s the big deal? I’ll put you back together again. I’ll make you taller, and not so fluffy.”

“I LIKE FLUFFY!”

Film ***1/2

There hasn’t been a more engaging and all around enjoyable animated movie than Disney’s latest entry, Lilo & Stitch, a sci-fi comedy that carries with it a sharp sense humor in just about every scene, even when it’s attempting to be heartwarming. For Disney, it’s by far one of their best animated movies in years. Truth be told, it ranks with their very best such as Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, and Mulan, though it differs a lot from those three films because this one is driven mostly by humor.

It also has a unique sense of rhythm and spunk. As an added bonus, the movie includes endless jokes aimed at pop-culture references, which I definitely appreciated. And as for a memorable Disney movie character, Stitch, for me, ranks as one of the all time best!

The film opens during a court hearing on a galactic alien federation planet. The man, or alien, on trial is dimwitted mad scientist Dr. Jumba Jookiba (voiced by David Ogden Stires), who is on trial for creating an experiment deemed illegal. This creation is a gremlin-like alien dubbed Experiment 626, who is hybrid mix of high intelligence and super-human strength, though he’s about as small as a puppy dog. Jumba has given his creation a sole purpose, to destroy. Judging from this, the galactic society votes to have the creature exiled on, of all things, a doomed asteroid.

However, due its endless resources, 626 escapes authorities and commandeers a getaway ship, which it then uses to make a hyper jump into space. This results in a chance crash landing on Earth, where he lands somewhere in Hawaii. The once-imprisoned Dr. Jookiba has now been ordered to track down 626 in exchange for freedom, but it won’t be an easy task.

Enter Lilo (voiced by Daveigh Chase), a loveable but very eccentric girl who is very much an outcast. She wreaks havoc unintentionally, though it has a towering effect on her older sister Nani (voiced by Tia Carrere) who also plays mother to Lilo since the death of their parents. Nani’s role as a proper mother is challenged by frequent visits from a stern social worker named Cobra Bubbles (voiced by Ving Rhames), who threatens to take Lilo away from her care if things aren’t changed.

Meanwhile, Experiment 626 has been captured by animal control following his crash landing, and has been taken to a nearby animal shelter, where he is instantly mistaken for a dog. Lilo, desperately in need of something that she can relate to, adopts the funny-looking dog, whom she names Stitch. The secret creature then tries to maintain a low profile while being pursued by his captors. However, Stitch soon grows to appreciate the idea of family love, and that emotion soon excels his desire to destroy everything he sees.

All in all, Lilo & Stitch can very much be considered Disney’s take on E.T., and although this plot scenario isn’t entirely new to us, you simply can’t help but have fun and endless laughs at what you’re seeing. The biggest laughs come in the scenes where Lilo teaches Stitch to be more of a modeled citizen, as she uses the art of Elvis Presley for inspiration. Seeing Stitch decked up as a hula dancer grooving to the King left me chuckling enormously. And as if that wasn’t enough, we later see him in the famous Elvis jumpsuit, along with a wig, which you simply HAVE to see to believe. Another element in the humor I appreciated is the fact that most of what Stitch says, or mumbles, isn’t understandable, and still comes off as funny, like at one point where he yells his gibberish at his creator, who responds with, “OH, LEAVE MY MOTHER OUT OF THIS!”

At a point when it seems the animated market is being taken over by computer animated entries, it was refreshing to see a feature made by hand drawing. I’m not saying computer animated films are a bad thing, but sometimes I do dig on old school, and Lilo & Stitch hits the high mark with its animated look. The colors and backgrounds are indeed a sight for the eyes. Judging from this movie, hand drawn animation maybe currently second rate, but it certainly isn’t out!

Lilo & Stitch is an adventurous movie experience, as well as a darn funny one. Credit must go to Disney for creating an animated piece that relies solely on humor, and little on phony drama, which has been the case with few recent animated films. This one is without a doubt the studio’s best animated feature in years, and should be cherished as a new Disney animated classic.

Video ****

Though by now I would’ve expected a Blu-ray release of the movie, I’m still more than satisfied with the high-level quality of this regular DVD presentation. Like many a disc from Disney, this ranks as a marvelously stunning transfer. Complete with extremely sharp images and an eye-gazing array of colors, the anamorphic picture does not encounter a single flaw. The entire presentation is crystal clear throughout. In short, a pure reference quality release.

Audio ****

A purely stunning audio presentation to match the excellent video presentation. The 5.1 audio track offers wonderful dynamic range, especially in the galactic settings of the movie. Brace yourself for a wild action sequence near the end of the movie, which is the show-stopping moment of the presentation. Music is delivered flawlessly, too, whether it’s music by Elvis or modern hula dance numbers. A strong and superb offering.

Features ****

Disney has done a most wonderful job of upgrading the extras for this new 2-Disc Big Wave Edition, and thankfully not made this worthless double-dip. For starters, just about all the extras from the previous DVD release have been ported over to this new edition. These extras include a Create Your Own Alien Experiment Game, a behind the scenes feature with Wynonna on the making of the song “Burning Love”, a music video for “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by A Teens, a funny featurette titled “A Stitch in Time”, additional documentaries “How to Hula”, “Animating the Hula” and “DisneyPedia: Hawaii”, as well as several Stitch promo spots, aka Inter-Stitch-als.

Those are all featured on Disc One, which also has some new extras including a commentary with writer/directors Chris Sanders and Dean Deblois, a music video for “Your Ohana” by Kamehameha Children’s Chorus and Lilo & Stitch’s Island of Adventures (which is comprised of three interactive games).

Disc Two contains by far the biggest highlight of the extras. It’s a near two-hour documentary, where in which every possible bit of information one could hope to find out about what went into the making of the movie is provided here, and is by far one of the best making of documentaries I’ve seen in a long time on any DVD release. This feature alone is worth the price of this release, even if you own the previous release. Also featured are several Deleted Scenes/Early Versions of particular sequences.

Summary:

Lilo & Stitch remains one of the best animated films to ever emerge from Disney, as well as a super equal treat from kids and adults alike. And in an age when re-releases tend to be rip offs more than anything else, Disney had put together a re-release that is truly worth your dollar in the form of the new 2-Disc Big Wave Edition. It’s a definite must have item for all Disney move collectors.

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