Lilo & Stitch - Movie Review
by Michael Elliott

Artistic Rating: 3.5 Stars
Comments: Since family is important why not see this film with one?
Directed By: Chris Sanders & Dean DeBlois
Starring: Chris Sanders, Daveigh Chase, Tia Carrere, David Ogden Stiers, Ving Rhames, Kevin McDonald, & Jason Scott Lee
Written By: Chris Sanders
Rated: PG for mild sci-fi action
Running Time: 1 hr : 20 min
Scripture References: Hebrews 2:11-12, 1 Corinthians 13:13, & Colossians 3:14

With Lilo & Stitch, Disney marks a departure from the recent trend towards CGI-intensive animation to give us a hand-drawn cartoon with so much heart and love woven through it that even the most cynical viewer will be touched.

On the planet Turo, the leaders of the galactic federation are taking action against the evil genius Jumba (voice by David Ogden Stiers) who has been experimenting in genetic research. His latest experiment (number 626) resulted in the creation of a feral six-legged being who he has genetically "programmed" to be nothing but destructive.

Banished to a remote and desolate location, experiment 626 escapes and makes its way to Earth, crash-landing in Hawaii where it is quickly mistaken for an ugly, misshapen dog. Fortunately for 626, a young orphaned native named Lilo (voice by Daveigh Chase) is in desperate need of a friend. In 626, whom she renames Stitch, she believes she has found one.

Lilo is being raised by her older sister Nani (voice by Tia Carrera) after the accidental death of their parents. Neither have adjusted particularly well to their new situation but there's no mistaking that they are a family. It may be a bit dysfunctional at times, but the family bond is still strong.

Stitch's mischievous and destructive ways cause a great deal of trouble for Nani and Lilo. A hulking social worker, incongruously named Mr. Bubbles (voice by Ving Rhames), has threatened to place Lilo in a foster home if they cannot show him how they can function as a family unit. To make matters worse, Jumba and his one-eyed guardian Pleakly (voice by Kevin McDonald) have been sent to Earth to snatch Snitch and bring him back to Turo.

The odds are against Lilo, Nani, and Stitch ever achieving the Hawaiian concept of "ohana" (which means family), where no one gets left behind and no one gets forgotten. What the characters teach us is that where family is involved, the odds don't matter. Stitch, who did not come from a family, learns from Lilo why having one is so important.

Disney's got a winner in Lilo & Stitch. It is a warm, funny, and touching film that will appeal to both adults and children. The hand drawn animation, using the tropical pastels that we associate with the Hawaiian islands, is simplistically lovely. Adults will enjoy the many sub-references that are inserted into the film for comic effect, recognizing elements from Jaws, Men in Black, Godzilla, Gremlins, and of course, Lilo's hero, Elvis Presley.

Such sub-referencing may sail over the heads of younger audience members who will be too busy following the story and rooting for the characters to bother with the nuances that amuse their parents. Judging by the concerned sniffles from the preschoolers sitting behind me as Lilo and Stitch were separated, followed by the raucous cheers and laughter when they were reunited, I'd say that Disney has given us characters and a story that definitely connect with their core audience.

The message of the film resounds with spiritual meaning. Family means no one gets left behind... or forgotten. The family of God will never grow so large that any one of us will be overlooked.

"Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. He says, "I will declare your name to my brothers; in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises." Hebrews 2:11-12 (NIV)

Knowing the strength and support that comes from being part of a loving and nurturing family, we have the added blessing of extending an invitation to others, who, like Stitch, may be engaged in self-destructive behavior. Love, especially unconditional love, is the greatest catalyst for change this world will ever know.

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