Friday, May 6, 2016

Movie #359: Lilo & Stitch

Lilo & Stitch is an animated Disney movie starring Daveigh Chase, Chris Sanders (also co-directed), Tia Carrere, Ving Rhames, David Ogden Stiers, Kevin McDonald, Jason Scott Lee, and Kevin Michael Richardson. It makes me cry every time.

Lilo (Chase) is a little girl living in Hawai'i with her big sister, Nani (Carrere). They're both orphans (their parents died in a car accident, and it couldn't have been too long ago, based on the photo of the whole family together) and they're having troubles. Lilo is a a somewhat strange little girl; she has a homemade doll named Scrump that she pretends is dying of brain infestation, she feeds a magic fish a sandwich every week ("Pudge controls the weather."), and she acts out and loses her temper. Nani, meanwhile, is struggling trying to take care of Lilo and keep a job, and she has a social worker named Cobra Bubbles (Rhames) considering whether Lilo would be better off in foster care.

Meanwhile, in outer-goddamn-space, an idiot scientist ("I PREFER TO BE CALLED EVIL GENIUS!") named Jumba (Stiers) creates a tiny, four-armed, engine of destruction (Sanders). The grand councilwoman (Zoe Caldwell) decides to banish the thing, but it gets loose and winds up heading for Earth. The council sends Jumba (since he created the thing) and an "expert" on Earth named Pleakly (McDonald) to retrieve the monster...

...but the monster, looking for a way to hide, has retracted its arms and been adopted, as a dog, by Lilo, who renames him "Stitch." Stitch proceeds to wreck their lives just by being himself (in fairness, Lilo helps), and finally he realizes that he's hurting Lilo by being around. He leaves to find his family, the aliens catch him, the enormous Captain Gantu (Richardson) shows up and recaptures him, and eventually everything comes to head with explosions. The council allows Stitch to stay on Earth with his newfound family, and Jumba and Pleakly get left behind as well (but join the family, too). Bubbles turns out to be ex-CIA, so he's actually a pretty good advocate for this situation. Yay!

So, I really love this movie. Not to get too personal, but the idea of being, at heart, a monster or a destructive force is one that I've grappled with for most of my life, and I have, at points, wavered between saying "fuck it" and embracing that to actively trying to change it. Stitch isn't, at heart, "bad" - he's genetically programmed to be destructive, but not malicious. He doesn't actually like hurting people, he just kind of likes chaos. He still wants love and family, though, and one of the themes of the movie, to me, is that even people who have trouble coping with society and its expectations - like Lilo, Stitch, but even Jumba and Nani - are deserving of love and empathy and family.

Plus, the characters get to be vulnerable. Nani is terrified and angry that Lilo might be taken away. Lilo is lonely and traumatized, but loves her sister and feels bad about what she does. Stitch is frightened and lonely, but believes that maybe he has a family. I've said it a bunch of times, but I'll say it again: I like it when characters in movies are generally well-intentioned, good, competent people who have to rise above their situation, rather than awful, selfish people who have to "learn a lesson." Stitch doesn't "learn a lesson," he gains a family. The lesson is ongoing.

(By the way, I never make it past him saying "lost" without crying.)

My Grade: A
Rewatch Value: High, if you have a box of tissues on hand

Next up: The Little Mermaid