Lilo&StitchGrade:  A-, C 
Entire family:  Yes (and no)
2002 / 2005; 85 min. / 68 min.; Color
Rated PG for some mild action
Aspect ratio:  1.66:1
Featured audio:  DTS-HD MA 5.1
Bonus features:  C
Includes:  Blu-ray, DVDs

Ohana means family, and family in this fun and feisty 2002 animated Disney feature means a little Hawaiian girl, her caretaker sister, the sister’s boyfriend, and a mutated monster of an alien that little Lilo adopts, thinking he’s a dog.

Just when you think it can’t get any more dysfunctional than that, the multi-eyed alien mad scientist who created Experiment 626 (whom Lilo names “Stitch”) and his companion show up, charged with eliminating or bringing back the tiny blue creature that looks like a deranged koala bear, but with a lionfish spine and an extra pair of arms. And when their failure seems imminent? A gigantic intergalactic henchman shows up to finish the job . . . and because of all the sparks that fly, a man-in-black from the U.S. Government threatens to take Lilo out of Nani’s custody.

It seems like an odd combination—a Hawaiian family trying to make it on an island paradise, and a mutant alien programmed to destroy things—but after the little guy crash-lands into their lives, it somehow works. Maybe it’s because Lilo’s behavior isn’t much better than Stitch’s. Since her parents died, she’s had anger management issues of her own—even to the point of biting friends and conjuring up voodoo dolls to “punish” them.

Stitch may be more destructive and quick to blast things with his plasma gun, but anyone familiar with the behavior of four to six year olds will find her character dead-on:  the gestures, the melodramatics, the expressions, the quick fuse. Whether she’s trying to explain why she’s late for a hula lesson or squirting Stitch with a water bottle to try to train him, she evokes full-on sympathy. What’s refreshing is that everything in Lilo & Stitch isn’t all sweetness and light. The relationship between Lilo (Daveigh Chase) and Nani (Tia Carrere) isn’t exactly the model behavior one finds on The Cosby Show, and Lilo and her sister have real issues to resolve following the death of their parents. The little alien, ironically named “Stitch” (as in sewing), tears them apart before he ends up helping them to mend.  

Lilo&StitchscreenAlan Silvestri collaborated with Hawaiian hula master Mark Keali’i Ho’omalu to create two wonderful songs that capture the spirit of the islands as well as this island romp, and Silvestri also managed to playfully integrate eight Elvis songs (Lilo’s a BIG fan) into the film’s soundtrack. The artwork, meanwhile, is distinctive in that it looks like a brighter-than-pastels series of watercolors, and the backgrounds and animation are wonderful to look at. Lilo & Stitch isn’t just for kids. It’s a true family film—a little offbeat, action-packed, energetic, original, and with a heart as big as a Hawaiian welcome.

Lilo & Stitch is also an appreciable upgrade over the DVD, with a beautiful-looking video and stellar audio. This three-disc combo pack features Lilo & Stitch and the weak 2005 direct-to-video Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch on one 50GB Blu-ray disc, and each film on DVD with bonus features only in standard definition. In the disappointing sequel—the third film, actually, but Disney would rather have us all forget about the 2003 stinker, Stitch: The Movie—Stitch reverts to his old violent and destructive behavior after a glitch in his programming threatens to destroy his relationship with Lilo, Nani, and David. Daveigh Chase begged off of this sequel, replaced by Dakota Fanning.

The original film will be a hit with the whole family, but the sequel? With a simplistic premise and cookie-cutter execution, it’s strictly for young children.