Lilo and Stitch

Lilo and Stitch (U)

WHAT’S this – a Disney movie that doesn’t rely on a cacophonous array of irritating dance routines and bad songs?

Well, it appears that even the mighty Disney Corporation doesn’t have to be restrained by its seemingly self-imposed reliance on music in its movies. Toy Story proved that, at least.

Yet in Lilo and Stitch all the rules appear to have been broken. The story involves a dysfunctional family, loneliness, intolerance and a quasi Dickensian sense of family values. Then there’s the hero of the title, a four-armed alien with an unquenchable sense of mischief named Stitch, who arrives on earth hotly pursued by extraterrestrial cops.

As one can see, this is not your standard Disney film. Nor was it ever envisaged to be one by co-creators Chris Sanders and Dean Deblois. Instead they pitched it to execs on the basis of its peculiarity and boundary-busting content. The most surprising thing is not that they did so, but that Disney went for it.

Stitch is an experiment created by a mad scientist who sees in his creature the opportunity to win wars. In short, Stitch is a weapon. With the ingenuity of the average space alien he escapes, steals a ship and crash lands on Earth where he is mistaken for a rather odd dog and adopted by lonely Hawaiian girl Lilo.

Cue a catalogue of destruction as Stitch, his sense of mischief coming to the fore, starts causing trouble. This brings Lilo and her sister Nani (Tia Carrere) to the attention of Cobra Bubbles, a social worker voiced by Ving (Pulp Fiction) Rhames, and plodding pursuers Jumba and Pleakley (David Ogden Stiers, from M*A*S*H, and Kevin McDonald).

Boasting traditional stop frame animation, lush design and some anarchic humour straight out of Monty Python, Lilo and Stitch is a pleasant surprise in an era of over-emphasised, overblown and anodyne children’s movies. One line in particular – “He will find himself irresistibly drawn to cities where he will back up drains, reverse road signs and steal everyone’s left shoe” – had me giggling helplessly, a sign of the crossover appeal that the film has for kids and adults alike.

With its deliberate mix of genres – science fiction and domestic drama – Lilo and Stitch might at first appear to be something of an awkward mish-mash. It’s not. Instead it represents a brave decision by Disney to do something outside of the norm and may well prove to be one of its biggest hits in the wake of computer-generated fare like Toy Story and Monsters, Inc.

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