Toon Talk: Stitch! The Movie
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Disney Film & Video Reviews by Kirby C. Holt
STITCH! THE MOVIE
Not so much a movie as a one-hour pilot episode for the upcoming Lilo and Stitch: The Series (premiering on ABC Kids and The Disney Channel later this month), Stitch! The Movie sets the stage for the continuing adventures of our favorite little Hawaiian girl, her alien best friend, and their extended â€˜ohana' of oddballs and misfits.
Picking up shortly after the events of last year's Oscar-nominated crowd-pleaser, this so-called â€˜movie' finds Experiment 626 still trying to fit into Earth-bound life with the help of pal Lilo. When Jumba's old partner in crime, a diminutive megalomaniac named Dr. Jacques Von Hamsterviel (imbued with a "bitchin' French accentâ€? - straight out of Monty Python and the Holy Grail - by Disney voice fave Jeff Bennett), recruits ex-captain Gantu to steal the other 625 experiments that proceeded our Stitch, the plot is set in motion.
After the kidnapping of Jumba, a couple of trips into outer space, and the â€˜birthâ€˜ of experiment 221 (unoriginally dubbed â€˜Sparky' due to his electrical powers), the remaining dehydrated experiments (which look like multi-colored gumballs) are scattered all over the Hawaiian Islands. They become â€˜activated', Ã la Gremlins, when they get wet, setting the stage for Lilo and Stitch to track down his dozens of â€˜cousins' and find "the one place where each belongsâ€? in the weeks to come on the TV series.
Even with its surface similarities to Pokemon, there's nothing really wrong with this concept; hints of upcoming plots and new characters are sprinkled throughout the bonus features (see below), and the series itself looks promising, if a bit low rent in the animation department, as is painfully evident here (the watercolor backgrounds remain, but the shoddy character animation lacks the smooth, awkward elegance of creator Chris Sanders' original designs).
Shades of the original movie's many quirky charms remain (such as when Gantu sits on a chair, it makes that familiar â€˜faa-rump' sound), but a lot of the attempts at humor embarrassingly fall flat or rely too heavily on cartoony slapstick (for example, I think Stitch now knows to not use a chainsaw in public) ... and while I'm not really sure where they are going with Pleakley's cross-dressing tendencies, it is a nice surprise to see a certain familiar face on the beach.
The original Lilo and Stitch deftly balanced the outrageous with the heartfelt, something that, with its limited artistic merits and plot-heavy storyline, this Movie could only hope to achieve with its scant running timing. As a result, the rich character development that was so vitally important in keeping the characters likeable and believable in the first film is in scant supply here. Instead, the characters are relegated to vague semblances of their former selves: Lilo is precocious, Stitch is pernicious, and Nani shows up occasionally to yell at them ...
Anybody who was charmed by them in the original film knows that these characters deserve better than this.