Despite some rather beautiful (if old fashioned) designs and illustrations, Disney’s major Summer animated feature proves sadly only a slight improvement over last year’s fizzer “Atlantis”. The story is what’s missing here, gone is the epic adventures of old – rather comes a modern day, by the numbers fable which on the one hand balances a very sweet innocent nature with some surprisingly very grown-up themes. Its trying to be bold in one move, yet oddly playing it safe the next. The human and alien elements never gel well sadly – and neither particularly stands out.
Strengths include realistic Hawaiian characters and settings, a good score with lots of Elvis songs, and some heartwarming stuff which kids will genuinely fall for. Lilo herself is an endearing (albeit somewhat whinging) character and prompts some good fun laughs, and while Stitch’s destructive abilities aren’t as funny as the filmmakers want him to be, he nevertheless has his moments – even if towards the end things become predictable. Watch for a great scene in a kennel filled with petrified dogs. The voice talents are pretty good all round, with Carrere lending welcome support as Nani and Kevin McDonald as the one-eyed comical Pleakly.
The action however is somewhat lacklustre, with the big ending sequence looking like something done about a decade or more ago and ultimately having little to no point. The inclusion of two comic relief alien characters is fine and prompts a few giggles but it feels rather ‘been there done that’ whilst laughs in general are quickly stifled as the film deals with some serious subjects such as Nani’s struggles to keep her job. Stitch’s dramatic subplot, mostly involved repeated looks at a cute but overused “Ugly Duckling” illustration, gets tired quite quickly and is hammered into the audience repeatedly – well beyond the time when we’ve got the point.
While it displays admirable grown-up qualities, this Disney adventure is sadly just for young girls. The space themed stuff is too juvenile for boys, and the lack of humour will be a real drawback for adults. Even their recent “Emperor’s New Groove” had a better sense of humour, though was not as interestingly drawn. Here’s hoping “Treasure Planet” is better.