“Flyin’ by on the Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride”

Lilo and Stitch

A cute film from the early 2000s that spawned two sequels and a cartoon series. David Ogden Stiers voices Jumba (knew he sounded familiar; a lot of other voices sound familiar but I cannot place how exactly I would know them). Another sci-fi adventure, this time ending in Hawaii, which was novel to me as a pre-teen, not being familiar with that culture [I have recently started watching the rebooted Hawaii 5-0 series, but I would still not call myself terribly familiar].

The “prologue” essentially, since the title doesn’t appear until after the sequence, begins at a space trial, where mad scientist Jumba is accused of illegal genetic experimentation; their evidence: Experiment 626. The little blue creature was built for destruction and most deem him a monstrosity. The Grand Councilwoman asks for a sign of any sort of good in the creature; 626 does not cooperate. Jumba is jailed and 626 is sentenced to exile. Captain Gantu oversees the prisoner transport, and 626 brilliantly escapes, stealing another ship and crash landing on Hawaii. Earth has been deemed a protected wildlife preserve as a host of the mosquito (it makes sense later). Humans are simple, unintelligent creatures, but to protect them the Grand Councilwoman barters with Jumba; his freedom for 626’s capture.

Meanwhile, we meet Lilo, a young girl who is not like everyone else. She gives peanut butter sandwiches to a fish, who supposedly controls the weather. She’s creative and imaginative and does not fit in with her peers: she punches and bites one who calls her “crazy” during hula lessons. When the instructor says he’ll call her sister, she begs to be included: “I’ll be good. I just want to dance; I practiced.” A determined little girl, she walks home instead of waiting for her sister. Unfortunately, a new social worker is on his way to visit and discovers older sister Nani attempting to get into the house which Lilo has nailed shut. Mr. Cobra Bubbles is not a patient man and is not impressed by the situation Lilo appears to be in; he informs Nani she has three days to improve things.

Nani and Lilo are typical sisters who fight, compounded by the stress that Nani is now Lilo’s guardian as well. Once they have both cooled down from their yelling, Lilo admits that Nani makes a better sister than mom and Nani consoles Lilo that she does love her little sister; she’s just afraid that Lilo will be taken away. Lilo reveals that people treat her different since their parents die. They strike a deal to not fight and yell as much. A “falling star” streaks across the sky (actually, 626’s stolen spacecraft) and Lilo insists on making a wish. Nani overhears Lilo wish for a friend, someone who won’t run away, maybe the nicest angel. Next image is 626 leaping out of the wreckage (he is not an angel).

send me an angel

The next day, Nani takes Lilo to the dog shelter to adopt a dog. Lilo finds 626 (all of the other dogs are cowering because they don’t know what 626 is and he appeared dead earlier) and instantly likes him, to Nani’s chagrin. Lilo promptly names him Stitch and Stitch finds the arrangement convenient for the moment, since Jumba and Pleakley (an “expert” on Earth) are hunting for him. Stitch is disappointed to find out that there are no large cities for him to destroy on the Hawaiian island and Lilo figures out that his “badness level” is high. Later that evening we meet Nani’s friend, David; they both work at a luau for tourists, but an incident between Stitch, Jumba, and Pleakley causes her to lose her job. Stitch’s behavior doesn’t improve once they get him home and Nani wants to take him back. Lilo insists that he is ohana; their father used to say “Ohana means family. Family means no one gets left behind, or forgotten.” Nani gives in and allows Stitch to stay. Stitch starts calming down when he discovers a book of fairy tales opened to The Ugly Duckling and starts pondering the idea of a family.

Cobra Bubbles stops by the next morning, displeased and further so when Stitch throws a book during their introduction. In order to train Stitch to be a “model citizen,” Lilo is inspired by Elvis and teaches Stitch his traits. He does pretty well, until the bright flashes of photographs cause him to go nuts. David stops by to cheer them up and takes the girlssurfing surfing. Stitch dislikes water but when he notices Lilo’s happiness with David and Nani, he eventually asks to be taken out. Unfortunately, Jumba decides to strike and pulls Lilo down along with Stitch. The adults act quickly and rescue Lilo and David goes back for Stitch. They’re all safe, but Mr. Bubbles saw the whole incident. He quietly tells Nani he will be back in the morning for Lilo. [I don’t remember crying the first time I watched this movie!] David seems to blame Stitch for everything getting messed up; I personally feel that’s unfair. There was no way to tell that the incident in the midst of surfing was Stitch’s fault and while he was not a well behaved “dog,” he made Lilo happy and was a sign that Nani was trying to settle Lilo.

stitchs_lost_momentThat evening, Lilo offers to Stitch that they could be his family; he could be their baby and they could raise him to be good. But if he wants to leave, he can. He does, taking the fairy tale book, stating he’s lost when he finds a clearing in the trees. Jumba, who has just been fired, comes upon Stitch and insists that his experiment will never belong, he has no family. Stitch runs, just missing Nani and David running by on their way to a job offer. He runs back to Lilo’s house, but Jumba follows. I find their fight hilarious: like Lilo calling Cobra Bubbles, and we can tell that Stitch is trying to protect Lilo (the line: “oh good, my dog found the chainsaw” hilarious; I almost made it the title of this blog, but that it could be misconstrued). But as an adult, I can also emphasize Nani’s horror at finding the house blown up and despair when Bubbles puts Lilo in the car.

Lilo runs off and discovers that Stitch is an alien; she’s mad that he ruined everything, she didn’t want to leave Nani. However, Captain Gantu returns, charged once again with capturing Stitch; he ends up capturing Lilo as well (not that he cares) and straps them to his ship. Nani sees Lilo disappear into the sky and confronts Stitch, who managed to escape, again. She finally breaks down, witnessing Jumba and Pleakley capturing Stitch. Stitch tells Nani Ohana, and bargains with Jumba to rescue Lilo. They do manage to rescue everyone, even Gantu when his ship blows up (though kids: do not drive a flammable truck into a volcano; Stitch can survive, humans cannot).

The Grand Councilwoman shows up in the aftermath to square everything away. Stitch quietly begins to board her ship, but politely asks to say good-bye. When the Grand Councilwoman asks “who are you?” Stitch replies: “This is my family. I found it, all on my own. It’s little and broken, but still good.” [Which is just about the most adorable thing ever and has been adopted by fandoms in general]. He continues to board the ship, but the Grand Councilwoman makes the decision for Stitch to serve out his exile on Earth (influenced by Cobra Bubbles pointing out that Lilo bought Stitch). As caretakers of Stitch, his family of Nani and Lilo are under the protection of the United Galactic Federation and cannot be separated. And Cobra Bubbles we discover, was once part of the CIA in 1973 and saved the planet in an incident in Roswell, convincing an alien race that mosquitoes were an endangered species.

stitch family

A happy ending all around. Jumba and Pleakely stay on Earth and help rebuild Lilo and Nani’s house. Cobra Bubbles seems to be an extended part of the family as well and there are snapshots of a happy domestic life for all. I don’t mind this happy ending because the alternative would be heart wrenching.  Lilo, Nani, and David are realistic characters and what makes them that, particularly the sisters, is that they are flawed.  Again, I find the surfing scene utterly adorable and I begin rooting for the little makeshift family; which makes the idea of them being separated so heartbreaking – Nani spending what little time she has left with her sister, just singing a lullaby.  David being patient and understanding; not a lot of guys would do that.

While I cannot sing along with the two main tracks from the soundtrack, I do enjoy them and their upbeat flair. I put this movie on par with Atlantis; a good story, a bit different, which is fine, but doesn’t quite match the splendor of Disney’s Renaissance hits.  However, the little clips that Disney made including Stitch in their other movies, were funny.

As always, let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Up Next: Treasure Planet

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