Directed by Chris Sander and Dean Deblois.
Running Time: 85 mins
What is needed these days to make a successful Disney feature for young children? Lilo and Stitch suggests some of the answers. During the 90s, classical stories were popular. We think of Beauty and the Beast, a comic version of Aladdin and a new classic, The Lion King. It is definitely not so straightforward now.
Who are Lilo and Stitch? Stitch is introduced to us first. He is genetic experiment 626, produced by a mad scientist in a galaxy far, far away. The Council banishes him to earth. But, just as we are settling into a mini version of some star wars, the mood changes completely.
We are then introduced to Lilo. She is a young Hawaiian girl who lives with her sister, Nani, with whom she is always quarreling. When Nani allows Lilo to buy a dog, whom does she find in the pound, terrifying all the stray dogs, but Stitch? She has to have him. Together, Lilo and
Stitch are able to rustle up quite a bit of mischief and some slapstick comedy.
So, it looks as though we need something from outer space, something alien and a close encounter as well as something slightly exotic here on earth which will finally give us a warm glow as everyone is reconciled, Stitch saves Lilo and the day and we appreciate what it is to be nice and human.
And, of course, this is what happens.
The film-makers stress that the quality that really appealed to them in Hawaii was what the locals call 'ohana', which means a sense of family. Lilo has to learn to love Nani so that they will not be a broken family. Stitch is all alone and what he needs to learn is to belong to a family.
Along the way, we are treated to some exotic characters from the galaxy, including Pleakley, a one-eyed, three-legged expert on Earth and Cobra Bubbles, an ex-CIA operative who has become Lilo's social worker. Nani's boyfriend, David, is a perfectly ordinary surfer who does fire-eating stunts which literally bring part of the house down.
What is attractive about Lilo and Stitch is the use of water colour backgrounds and drawings rather than computerised characters. Lilo idolises Elvis, so there is a pleasing soundtrack of his songs.
The publicity says the film is charming and delightful. I hope that Lilo and Stitch entertains the family audience, but I wouldn't be too sure.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is the International President of SIGNIS: The Association of Catholic Communicators.
Richard Leonard SJ