Sunday, October 21, 2012

D52 - Week 42 - Lilo & Stitch

Experiment K114

I cared much for this one.

Stitch is an interesting character, not just as a movie character, but as a merchandise character. I just find it interesting how often you see him on stuff. Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, they've been around forever; that makes sense. Princesses, very understandable. Winnie the Pooh and friends, okay. Pixar characters. And then there's Stitch. It just seems odd because I never got the impression that the movie Lilo & Stitch was a huge enough breakaway everlasting hit that would warrant still seeing his face on stuff ten years later. But now that I've actually watched the movie in full, I do find myself with a strange desire to have some small representation of Stitch, like a keychain or something. Maybe a fluffy one. But that would be silly. No, a pin. That's more manly and grown-up.

The film just hits me in just the right ways from start to finish. There seems to be a running theme in this blog of deeming not-actually-princesses to be Disney Princesses, and it would be easy to do that here too. You still get a character who finds he* wants more in his life, and he ends up falling in love with the first person he meets (though despising the interest at first, which would be the thing to do for a couple of future Disney Princesses), it's just that in this case it's family love.

I love the character designs, from the inevitable far-out aliens to the cherubic humans. And the scenery does a great job of selling Hawaii as a place that people call home, whereas usually it's only seen in travel documents as a heavenly vacation spot. I mean, it still looks like a great place to be, but at least L&O acknowledges that the beaches can get crowded (unless you happen to have an alien to scare everyone away) and that you might see big dudes in tiny swimwear (at least Lilo can find appreciation in it). Try to find those things in the glossy brochure photos (big entertainer locals in swimwear do not count). And I'll always take cartoonish science fiction* over the straight-forward kind, because it makes it easier to overlook things like sound in space and how exactly all of the aliens besides Stitch were able to communicate with the Earthlings. And..was Stitch always able to understand English, and just not able to speak it well until learning it, or did he not speak much until the end because he was trying to learn, or...nope, no. I won't get into that.
I do love that I get to see the complete opposite of the alien-destroying-a-huge-city cliché. And the way playing against that cliché is a vital part of the plot itself. And the way the humor just happens to hit the sweet spot of my character-based humor sensibilities. It's a nice break to get characters who happen to be funny, rather than ones who come across as deliberately playing for laughs at the screen. And blending that humor with the moments that need to be taken seriously. I don't want to hype it up too much as to say it's a perfect movie, but it might just be an example of my perfect movie.

I'll go ahead and embarrass myself here. Bambi was sad, but...maybe because I knew what was coming, I wasn't terribly fazed. Dumbo, more depressing than tear-jerking. But Lilo & Stitch, man. Maybe it was because I didn't expect it to be that emotional (spaceships! creatures! hula dancing!), but it actually got to me. Lilo and Nani have a believable relationship and react to each other in an appropriately believable way. And even though I've had no outside experience with any experiment 626s, I'm strangely convinced that that's how one really would deal with his own emotions in that scenario. As odd as that sounds. So his struggle to find his Ohana is surprisingly compelling. It beat against the tear ducts, and I could've held it together, if not for that one line that broke my "I will not tear during a cartoon alien movie" barrier:
 "I hear you cry at night."
~stream~ OH GOD that's so sad. Why'd you have to go there, movie? He...he...I'm gonna need a moment.

~deep sigh~

So, how about that music, huh? The soundtrack isn't as all Elvisy as I was expecting it to be, not that it would necessarily be a bad thing if it was. Elvis Presley-heavy would still be better than, say, Phil Collins-heavy. Yeah, I should stop bagging on Phil Collins. But hey, how about that Alan Silvestri? That's pretty much the only thing left for the movie to seem tailor-made for me: Hire the guy who also did the soundtracks for four of my long-standing personal favorite movies, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and the Back to the Future trilogy. I feel like I should personally thank the producers for that, on top of everything else.

I was preparing to and hoping to enjoy this movie (based on what I already knew about it), and I was not at all disappointed - I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. If I had to come up with anything negative to say about it....hmmmm. How about....Nani's thighs are distractingly hefty.

Favorite character: How often have I voted for a title character? I feel like I should stitch some sort of counted cross stitch Stitch.
Least necessary character: I like David, but he doesn't get to do much.
Overall: Lilo & Stitch joins The Hunchback of Notre Dame in my D52 Movies I Wish I Had Seen Much Earlier list, though for different tonal reasons.

*He's called a "he" throughout, but if he's a completely unique species with no relatives, isn't Stitch basically genderless? Or does Jumba create his experiments with a gender in case he plans to breed them with other creations? I expect this is addressed in one of the sequels, none of which I have seen yet?
**By the way, I count Star Trek TOS as cartoony science fiction. Some of the time. But not the actual animated series. That's just hard to watch at all.

Amanda's Galactic Treatise

Lilo and Stitch falls very squarely in the unlikely winner category.  Recent Disney movies up until this point have been lackluster, without focus, confusing, forgettable and so forth, so thank goodness for Stitch, because it's the Disney Savior of this generation.  It's about darn time someone got around to making a movie that he or she would want to watch instead of trying to pander to the crowd.  I guess what this movie has going for it that the last handful of films did not is sincerity.

Suspend your disbelief enough to accept that aliens exist, can speak English, and are hiding among us and you open yourself up to a very giving and vibrant piece of work.  I'm thrilled that the makers brought Hawaiian culture to the masses in a way that wasn't so hokey and tourist mongering.  They really managed to make something interesting without being insulting to the native people and without going too far with the political correctness and so ending up incredibly bland (Pocahontas team, I'm looking at you!)

The tiny family of Nani and Lilo is believably represented and just as believably broken, and yet the hurt and confused love that they share feels as real as anything you would experience in real life.  Everyone can relate to the fear of uncertainty that Cobra Bubbles' presence represents.  And Stitch is as touched by Ohana as anyone who has ever felt loneliness could be. 

And yet as heavy as the themes are, there is somehow plenty of room for humor.  Pleakley's obstinate rule following is a bit of a joke at the expense of the government.  Stitch's Elvis impersonating feels to me like a good hard jab at pop culture's constantly changing (and yet still somehow static) view of "a model citizen." Even David as a cliche lovestruck kid is good for a few laughs.  And really, who doesn't get a good chuckle from a little bit of mayhem now and again.

It's such an off the wall idea that any summarizing I were to try and do would never do justice and be detrimental to my glowing recommendations so suffice to say that Lilo and Stitch is an excellent movie and you won't really know how good it is until you've seen it for yourself.

Favorite Character: Jumba Jookiba is the winner for me.  His voice was excellently cast and you can always rely on him to help you along with the story with a little talking to himself in his evil genius sort of way.
Least necessary character: Pudge the Fish.  I'm just not really convinced that he controls the weather at all.
Overall: Excellent in so many ways. It's beautiful to look at.  It's beautiful to listen to.  There is so much engaging story and all of it so precisely told without relying on a heavy handed story before bedtime around the fire. Insert an annoyed glare at Atlantis here.

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