An orphaned Hawaiian girl, Lilo, adopts what she believes to be a dog, Stitch — actually a mutant alien programmed to destroy. As Lilo unwittingly protects Stitch from the scientist sent to capture him, the pet gradually learns the meaning of familial love.
Aliens, single parent families... looks like Disney has gone all modern on us. Luckily, though, Lilo & Stitch is sufficiently well-executed not to appear too self-consciously progressive: the themes blend smoothly into a decent plot, the animation is confident without being showy, and the roster of Elvis songs makes a nice, retro alternative to the studio’s usual pop ballads.
Stitch himself is, at least at first, a refreshingly bad egg. The fierce, big-eared, four-armed critter — who can tuck his alien appendages away at will — lands on Earth, E.T.-style, but does not want to go, far less phone, home.
He’d rather play dog and create chaos in Hawaii while avoiding his would-be captors from another planet (a clumsy duo who provide fewer laughs than intended).
The parallels between Stitch and his new owner, Lilo, may be obvious to an adult, but are more subtly revealed to a kid’s eye in a manner that doesn’t grate on the nerves.
Both rebellious orphans, Lilo and Stitch give their guardians hell and are in danger of being taken away from their protectors (Lilo’s feisty older sister Nani could lose the little girl if she doesn’t stop playing up). And, of course, they eventually help each other come to terms with loss, finding comfort in the values of their family — which is “little and broken but still good”, as Stitch (who can talk when he wants to) finally notes.
Enjoyable peripheral characters include a burly Ving Rhames-voiced Man In Black (improbably Lilo’s social worker, but the script deals with that little unlikelihood); a well-meaning himbo (Jason Scott Lee) who offers Nani a shoulder to cry on; and a gravel-voiced Grand Councilwoman (from Lilo’s home planet) who’s vexed by the inefficiency of her employees. She’s responsible for a few of the film’s more sophisticated comic themes — only resisting gassing Earth because mosquitoes are a protected species.
All the sentiment and charm you’d expect from a Disney movie, but easier to swallow thanks to mature themes and realistic characters.