Lilo and Stitch
- compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2002 1 Jan
And deservedly so. While the film is a mixed bag, its strengths greatly outweigh its weaknesses. This is a small, humble production, utilizing the studio's old-fashioned hand-drawn animation instead of the lush computer imagery of
Stitch is the name given to a runaway alien adopted by an orphaned Hawaiian girl named Lilo. Stitch is an experiment, a puppy-sized weapon of minor destruction who escapes a death sentence in outer space and crashes on Earth. Lilo is naïve enough to overlook his alien nature but perceptive enough to understand Stitch's loneliness. She traces his destructive tendencies to his lack of a loving family. Welcoming him with unconditional love into her ohanu( We are frequently reminded, "Ohanu means family") Lilo appeals to the little beast's softer, sweeter nature. And, fortunately for us, Stitch's growth into a self-controlled, kind-hearted alien in no way compromises his humor and his character. He remains unpredictable, surprising, and capable of making the grownups laugh out loud. But it is Lilo who wins our hearts. She's as spunky and original a heroine as any the studio has invented. I'd rather watch her than a starry-eyed Snow White or a quirkless Sleeping Beauty any day.
When Lilo prays for an angel and is given a sharp-toothed monster, she demonstrates an important principle: Rather than waiting for love to come and rescue you, you can instead become the vessel through which transforming love arrives. While Stitch learns some lessons, Lilo is the one who changes life for her family. The film never denies that parents are good things, but it does give us a glimpse of how grace can cultivate good things even in broken families. When Lilo affirms that her family is "little, and broken, but good," it's not a typical Disney sentimental moment. It is rather a well-earned truth that, yes, produced a lump in the throat of this jaded moviegoer.
"When I find a film like
Michelle Mauldin (Christian Spotlight) says, "Put all these characters and storylines together, and you've got a whopper of a movie, full of suspense, action, and heart-tugging moments. The film shows the value of unconditional love." Likewise, Ted Baehr (Movieguide) calls it "a delightful discovery.
Steven D. Greydanus (Decent Films) writes, "
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' critic highlights the heroine: "Lilo's unsinkable optimism and hopefulness in the midst of a broken family life make her utterly sympathetic."
Bob Smithouser (Focus on the Family) complains that Disney's constant repetition of the lost-parent plot is "an overused device. It may serve the story. It may even lift the spirits of a child who has faced similar tragedy and realizes that they, too, can overcome desperate sadness and loss. But I've often wondered about the cumulative effect of these films on non-orphaned Disney fans, and whether they fear for Mom and Dad's safety."
Many mainstream critics reacted with surprise and delight. Kenneth Turan (Los Angeles Times) says, "Looser and less obviously formulaic in its fresh approach to our hearts, [the film] has an unleashed, subversive sense of humor that's less corporate and more uninhibited than any non-Pixar Disney film has been time out of mind. This is a happy throwback to the time when cartoons were cinema's most idiosyncratic form instead of one of its most predictable."
MaryAnn Johanson (Flick Filosopher) admits, "
And Roger Ebert (The Chicago Sun-Times) calls it "a truly inspired animated feature. It's one of the most charming feature-length cartoons of recent years—funny, sassy, startling, original. It doesn't get sickeningly sweet at the end, it has as much stuff in it for grownups as for kids, and it has a bright offbeat look to it."REVIEWMovie Clips to Show or TellLilo & Stitchby David SlagleLeadership Journal, Spring 2003