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Lilo & Stitch Reviews

After the astounding success of such computer generated features as MONSTERS, INC. and the TOY STORY pictures, Disney takes a giant step back into making animated movies the old-fashioned way — by hand, in two dimensions, and one frame at a time. It's quite an achievement and makes a strong argument in favor of traditional animation — this is the first Disney feature since DUMBO (1941) to feature watercolor backgrounds, and they're beautiful. But beautiful illustrations and a funny premise can't save this well-meaning kid flick from its dully plotted story. Somewhere in the far reaches of the galaxy, Dr. Jumba (voice of David Odgen Stiers) is in big trouble. He's been accused of illegal genetic experimentation, and must now defend himself at Galactic Federation Headquarters. His project is a nasty piece of work called Experiment 626 (Chris Sanders, the film's writer and co-director), a small, spiny, six-armed little thing that's very smart, virtually indestructible and extraordinarily bad tempered. Jumba is found guilty and tossed in jail, but before 626 can be banished to a desert asteroid, it commandeers a police cruiser, points it toward Earth and lands on the island of Kauai, Hawaii, where he's mistaken for an ugly dog and tossed in the pound. 626 is soon adopted by Lilo (Daveigh Chase), a lonely six-year-old orphan who's being raised — with difficulty — by her older sister, Nani (Tia Carrere), and renamed "Stitch." Lilo makes allowances for Stitch's bad behavior — she herself is a little temperamental and has been known to bite — and is determined to turn him into a respectable pet. And she'd better, fast: A hulking social worker named Cobra Bubbles (Ving Rhames) has already warned Nani that if she doesn't get her act together, he'll have no choice but to put Lilo in foster care. The last thing Nani needs is a tiny Terminator destroying her house. The film is full of refreshing tweaks: The characters really look like native Hawaiians and the soundtrack is thankfully free of the usual Randy Newman-style goop (most of the songs come courtesy of the King himself, Elvis Presley). But the promising relationship between Lilo and Stitch and its attendant theme about the importance of family, no matter how small or unconventional, gives way to a competing storyline involving Dr. Jumba and monocular Earth expert Agent Pleakley (Kevin McDonald), who've been dispatched to Earth to bring the little beastie back home. It's unfortunate that the final third of the film is devoted to a series of loud, anime-inspired chase scenes that, frankly, go nowhere.