It’s no “Lion King,” much less a “Snow White” or “Beauty & the Beast,” but Disney’s summer 2002 cartoon, “Lilo & Stitch,” is one of the top grossing films of the year thus far, yet still seems destined to be forgotten in the Disney lineage.

Paul Wong
Courtesy of Disney
Hawaii? I was thinking about going there.

Lilo is a mischievous girl living with her older sister, Nani (voice of Tia Carrere) after their parents die (don’t worry, we never see any accident). She likes to feed peanut butter sandwiches to her fish and take pictures of large people. But because of her quirks, she doesn’t get along with girls her own age. While Nani works a crappy waitressing job to help, she decides to placate Lilo with a dog. One problem with the dog Lilo selects and names Stitch: It’s not really a dog.

Stitch (voice of writer/director Chris Sanders), alias #626, is a genetic experiment gone awry. Super strong and brilliant, Stitch can easily create a model of San Francisco – then demolish it like Godzilla. Stitch is created to destroy. It escapes and crash lands on Earth, where it eventually becomes Lilo’s pet.

Featuring several fine Elvis songs (including a Wynonna cover of “Burning Love” that works well), the music is splendid. The film can get quite sappy, but most of it entertains. Kevin McDonald (“The Kids in the Hall”) stands out as one of the aliens sent to recapture Stitch while protecting the delicacy of Earth’s ecosystem and their mosquitoes (don’t ask).

Being a Disney movie and not a David Lynch film, it’s pretty predictable. Ohana means family, family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten. That’s the message. Despite constant vigilance from social worker Cobra Bubbles (Ving Rhames in a scene-stealing role), the girls are resolved to stay together.

The sound on the DVD is superb, courtesy of THX. The extras are plentiful – but not all are worth the time. The most amusing feature is a collection of previews in which Stitch gets placed into four Disney classics – “Beauty & the Beast,” “The Lion King,” “Aladdin” and “The Little Mermaid.” Definitely check these out. Also worth surfing through are the “Young Voices of Hawaii” featurette featuring Hawaiian kids brought in to sing along on one of the clever songs of the film, and a feature on the hula. Skip the hideously out of place A*Teens music video and the “Build An Alien Experiment” game, which is not even as exciting as the “Beauty and the Beast” trivia game.

“Lilo & Stitch” was one of the few pleasures of the summer. Entertaining without drowning in sap, Disney found itself a hit. Unfortunately, Disney may take it overboard by making a series and a direct-to-video movie featuring Stitch, but that shouldn’t penalize this fun flick.

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