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The Council, led by The Grand Councilwoman (Zoe Caldwell) and Captain Gantu (Kevin Michael Richardson) convene the trial of Doctor Jumba Jookiba for illegal genetic experimentation. Jumba is a four-eyed Russian sounding alien voiced by David Ogden Stiers.
Yeah, I think he’s earned it by this stage. Jumba claims that he’s innocent and that all his research was merely theoretical and that he’d never actually create a new life form. The council then presents “Experiment #626”, a weird, bat-earned, bright blue genetic freak who we will soon come to know as “Stitch”.
Okay, y’all know I’m a sucker for great character design and Stitch is just…damn. The design is just so incredibly versatile, switching between creepy and absolutely adorable while still remaining perfectly on model. Couple this with some phenomenal motion (he moves like a cross between a koala, a lizard and a spider) and you’ve got one of the most remarkable creations in the canon. He’s just amazing to watch. Stitch is actually voiced by director Chris Sanders, who recorded his lines as a stop-gap until they found a voice actor and ended up being used in the final film because he was so funny. And the voice is very funny…but…I dunno. It sounds familiar somehow.
Anyway, Gantu asks what the creature is and Jumba explains that Stitch is basically an unkillable, unstoppable force of destruction. “That thing is an affront to nature!” says the nine foot tall shark man. Gantu wants to off Stitch right there but the Councilwoman insists that they at least try to reason with him. The Councilwoman asks Stitch for some sign that there is some good in him, and Stitch responds: “Meega na la Kweesta!” which, according to my copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a profanity so revoltingly explicit that it’s use will result in the perpetrator being shunned, barred from polite society and shot through the lungs. Hearing Stitch drop a MNLK bomb is enough for the Councilwoman, who orders Gantu to take Stitch away so that the Galactic Council can deal with other matters.
Gantu locks Stitch up on a prison ship bound for a barren asteroid but Stitch escapes almost immediately and hijacks a red ship because, as we all know, red makes it go faster. Back at HQ, the Grand Councilwoman watches in horror as Stitch’s ship crashes on a tiny island on the distant planet “Ee-arth” and orders the entire planet gassed to prevent him escaping.
However, she’s interrupted by Pleakley (Kevin MacDonald) a panicky one-eyed alien who tells her that Earth is a protected wildlife habitat that’s being used to rebuild the highly endangered mosquito population. Pleakley tells the Councilwoman that they’ll have to send in a covert team to take Stitch out. The Councilwoman realises that there is only one with the necessary skills for this kind of covert Op.
Nah, she and Pleakley instead visit Jumba in prison and tell him that if he helps bring Stitch back he can go free. And am I the only one who things that’s a little overly generous? I mean, say you’ll give him a TV for his cell or promise to get the guards to break The Sisters’ legs. Anyway, Pleakley is left in charge of Jumba, who asks him what pathetic, defenceless planet his little hellbeast has fallen on. We transition to
Hawaii, Hawa’ii, Hawai’i…the birthplace of the current US President and we get our first song He Mele No Lilo. This is an absolutely beautiful song sung in Hawaiian that instantly immerses us in our setting. We now meet our second lead, Lilo (Daveigh Chase), a six year old Hawaiian girl AND OH MY GOD SHE IS NOT DRAWN IN THE DISNEY HOUSE STYLE!!!
Lilo arrives late to her hula dance class, still dripping wet from swimming in the sea which causes all the other kids to slip and fall. Her dance instructor asks her why she’s late and Lilo says…okay, follow me closely here:
- Today is sandwich day.
- Sandwich day is the day Lilo feeds Pudge the fish (who is a fish) a peanut butter sandwich.
- Lilo was out of peanut butter, and her sister told her to feed Pudge a tuna sandwich instead, however…
- Lilo feels that feeding him a tuna fish sandwich would cause Pudge to inadvertantly be guilty of cannabalism. Bad on its own merits, but especially dangerous when you consider that…
- Pudge controls the weather.
- Ergo, Lilo had to go to the store to buy peanut butter, hence why she is so late.
Yeah, the movie lets us know straight off the bat. Lilo is cray cray. Not “quirky”. Not “flaky”. We are talking an extremely tentative grip on reality here. Two things combine to make Lilo an absolutely fantastic lead character, and one of the very best in the whole canon. Firstly, the fact that the movie is not afraid to show that she is properly messed up. Secondly, an absolutely phenomenal performance from the 11 year old Deveigh Chase. She brings this incredible emotional rawness to the role, that I can’t remember seeing in any other Disney movie. Lilo is, quite frankly, broken. This is a child who has suffered an unimaginable trauma, the loss of both her her parents, and to its eternal credit the movie never shies away from that. When one of the other children says that Lilo’s crazy, she of course wanders off and sings a sad song about how no one really understands her but if they could only see the real her…nah, I’m kidding she kicks that kid’s ass.
Lilo has to sit out the rest of the dance lesson, but afterwards she tries to patch things up with the other girls and asks if she can play dolls with them. The girl who she attacked (sorry, I don’t know her name so I’m just going to call her Little Miss Snoops) says that she doesn’t have a doll and Lilo shows them “Scrump”.
The other girls ditch her and Lilo angrily throws Scrump on the ground and walks off, before immediately running back and hugging the doll and it is just the saddest, sweetest thing you have ever…ohhhh boy.
We now meet Nani (Tia Carrere), Lilo’s older sister who arrives home to find the house locked up and Lilo lying on the living room floor in a depressed funk listening to Elvis Presley. This is kind of a problem for Nani, as there’s a social worker coming to check up on them and this is not the kind of family situation that makes it into a lot of Norman Rockwell paintings. But before she can get in, the social worker arrives.
The social worker is voiced by Ving Rhames and is named Cobra Bubbles (which, by an amazing coincidence was my stage name during my brief but surprisingly successful gay porn career). Nani lets them both in through the back door and the movie makes something very clear to both us and Bubbles; Nani is in way over her head. The house is a mess, there’s garbage building up, there’s spoiled food in the kitchen and Lilo is so twisted that if she had a twin sister she could be haunting hotels in a Stephen King novel. This is absolutely fucking revolutionary and I’ll tell you why. In Disney movies, there are three categories of parental authority figure:
- The all loving, benevolent father figure. (“The Mufasa”)
- The evil, abusive adult guardian. (“The Madame Medusa”)
- Dead moms.
This is, I think, the first time that suggests that there may be some middle ground between, super competent awesome parent, evil abuser and…um…death. At no point are we made to think that Nani is bad. or neglectful. She’s just a young woman who’s been thrown into an impossible situation and she’s failing. Because, y’know, it’s fucking impossible. She’s probably had to drop out of school so that limits her to minimum wage jobs with which she somehow has to support both her herself and her little sister. Who is frickin’ nuts. And I love the fact that this movie isn’t afraid to show her failing while still showing that she is a good person. Hell, that she is an amazing person because she is trying so, so hard. But unfortunately, Child Services don’t give you A’s for effort and Bubbles warns Nani that “I am the one they call when things go wrong.” and that she has three days to turn things around. Lilo and Nani have a blazing row and Lilo says that Nani should just sell her and buy a rabbit which of course is a terrible idea. Seriously, they are the worst fucking pets.
Later, Nani brings Lilo some pizza as a peace offering and Lilo whisper; “We’re a broken family. Aren’t we?”
Jesus guys, c’mon! This is a Disney movie, remember? Can a mouse get a happy singing chipmunk up in here?! Lilo tells Nani that she likes her better as a sister than a mother, which actually makes Nani happy, probably because that’s the role she feels happier in. The two sisters then see a shooting star crashing in the jungle through the window and Lilo pushes Nani out so that she can make a wish. Nani creeps back into Lilo’s room and sees her sister praying…holy shit, she’s actually praying?! In a Disney movie?!
Anyway, Lilo prays for a friend who’ll stay with her and who’ll never abandon her, preferably an angel. Meanwhile, in the forest her “angel” has just emerged from the flaming wreckage of his crashed spaceship.
Stitch goes on a rampage that lasts all of five seconds when he gets hit by a convoy or articulated trucks and wakes up in a dog pound surrounded by terrified dogs. Lilo and Nani have just arrived at the pound because Nani thinks that what with struggling to make ends meet and the house being a mess and her sister being an unstable basket case in constant need of supervision, now is the perfect time to get a dog.
Stitch tries to escape from the pound only to discover that Jumba is camped outside ready to lazer his furry ass. Stitch decides to pose as a dog by sucking in two of his six arms, retracting his back spikes and hiding his antennae and tries to get himself adopted by Lilo, going up to her, grinning and saying “Hiiiii”.
And damn it, that voice still sounds familiar to me…
When Lilo brings Stitch out the lady who runs the dog pound starts freaking out because “we thought that dog was dead, he was hit by a truck!”
Okay, there are a few disturbing implications raised by that statement, Dog Pound Lady, if that is your real name. Firstly, recall that Stitch woke up in the pound surrounded by other dogs. Why would he be there if they thought he was dead?
But far worse is the implication that this Dog Pound Lady, a woman I remind you, who works exclusively with dogs, thought that something with six legs, two antennae and back spikes was a dog. Quick rule of thumb, if you’re counting a dog’s legs and you go over four, it’s either not a dog or an incredibly well endowed one. Dog Pound Lady, I am actually wracking my brains to think of another character in the Disney canon who fails so completely and utterly in their job oh wait…
As soon as they leave the pound, Jumba tries to take the shot and Stitch actually uses the little girl as a human shield. Jumba hisses “this is low even for you!” and yeah, that’s pretty ruthless. I can’t think of another character in the Disney canon who has such a complete and utter disregard for the sanctity of human life oh wait…
Nani leaves Lilo and Stitch in town to their own devices while she goes to work. They run into Little Miss Snoops and her posse riding their big wheels and Stitch jacks one and the two go riding off around the island. Pleakley watch from a distance and Jumba solemnly says: “His destructive programming is taking effect. He will be irresistibly drawn to large cities where he will back up sewers, reverse street signs and steal everyone’s left shoe.”
But Hawaii of course has no large cities and Stitch realises that he’s trapped here with no way to act out his programming. We now get a montage of Stitch grudgingly trying to act as Lilo’s dog, with Jumba and Pleakley trailing him all the time. This is set to song called Stuck on You, by some guy called Elvis Presley. It’s pretty good, but Disney mustn’t have liked it because as far as I can tell they never got him back to do songs for any other movies.
Later that night Lilo takes Stitch to the luau bar where Nani is waitressing. Also working there is David (Jason Scott Lee), a fire-eater at the bar who’s got the hots for Nani. See what I did there? Fire-eater who’s got the hots for anyway Lilo introduces David to her “dog” and David takes one look at the thing and stammers “You sure it’s a dog?”. See Dog Pound Lady? David can tell this thing isn’t a dog, and he drinks petroleum for a living. Stitch gets jumped by Jumba and Pleakley who are disguised as tourists. Stitch bites Pleakley’s head and Nani has to pull him off. The manager runs out and sees that Nani’s “dog” has attacked two of his “customers”…
Alright, seriously what the hell? He has a giant eyeball in the middle of his head, does no one see this? Do Hawaiians just have zero facial recognition?
Anyway, Nani loses her job and when they go home she tells Lilo that they have to give Stitch back. But Lilo angrily shouts “He was an orphan and we adopted him! What about Ohana!?” Ohana is the Hawaiian concept of family and according to Lilo it means “Nobody gets left behind or forgotten”. Nani can’t really argue with that (I could, but Nani’s bad at arguing) so Lilo shows Stitch her room. Stitch starts trashing everything he touches and Lilo challenges him to create something. Lilo responds by using various books and toys to create a perfect miniature scale model of San Francisco. And then trashing it. And you cut that out Stitch!
Once he’s finally got that out of his system, Stitch starts looking through some of the books in the house and comes across the story of the Ugly Duckling. Lilo tells him it’s the story of a freakish outsider who finally finds happiness when he finds his family which Stitch seems to find oddly resonant for some reason.
The next day Bubbles arrives, telling Nani that he’s heard that she’s now unemployed. Stitch then lobs a book at Bubbles’ head who asks what the hell this thing is. Lilo proudly says “it’s my puppy” and goddamn it people this is so clearly not a dog! “I’m sorry my dog threw a book at your head” is not a sentence that has ever needed to be used before! Bubbles tells them that the next time he sees them Nani had better be employed and Stitch had better be a model citizen. So as Nani tries to scrounge up some work across the island, Lilo takes on the daunting task of making Stitch into a gentleman.
This all leads up to a scene where Nani just manages to clinch a job as a lifeguard, before Stitch goes berserk on the beach and causes a panic. David comes across the three of them, now very dejected, and offers to take them surfing to cheer them up. This takes us into our next song Hawaiian Rollercoaster Ride. This is just a beautiful, sweet little scene of the characters messing around and having fun in the ocean, and even Stitch overcomes his fear of the water and learns to love surfing. This is cut short when Jumba tries to pull Stitch underwater, almost drowning him and Lilo as well. Nani saves Lilo and pulls her to shore but Bubbles has been watching from the beach and saw the whole thing. Well, not the bit with the aliens pulling them underwater obviously, but he got the overall gist. Bubbles sadly tells Nani that he knows that she’s trying, but that it’s time for her to consider what’s best for Lilo.
Thank you movie. Thank you for not making Bubbles a one-dimensional bad guy. Thank you for portraying him as a good man trying to do a very difficult and absolutely vital job. Thank you for not making this into a simplistic, black and white good versus evil thing. Good. On. You.
Bubbles tells Nani that he’ll be coming to collect Lilo next morning, and a heartbroken Nani takes her home. The two sisters sit in a hammock and Nani softly sings “Aloha Oe” to Lilo. It sounds like the most clichéd thing imaginable but it actually works so well, the lyrics (“one last embrace, until we meet again”) and Tia Carrere’s absolutely beautiful, melancholy singing…goddamit movie.
Stitch, realising that he’s brought Nani and Lilo nothing but pain, does the first selfless thing of his life and leaves. Lilo watches him go, saying “You can go if you want to. But I’ll remember you. I remember everyone who leaves.”
Meanwhile, Pleakley and Jumba wash up on the shore and they receive a call from the Noble Councilwoman telling them that she’s firing their incompetent asses and putting Captain Gantu on the case. Jumba is actually happy about this because now he can capture Stitch his way.
Jumba finds Stitch alone in the jungle and tells him to come quietly. But Stitch refuses.
Jumba coldly tells him that that’s not really an option for him, and Stitch runs away.
Back at the house, Nani waits despondently for Bubbles to come and take Lilo away but David arrives at the door with good news. There’s a shop in town looking for staff. Nani tells Lilo to stay in the house and not let anyone in and she runs into town with David to snag to the job, saying “Things are finally turning around.”
So yes, in an INCREDIBLE IRONY, just as Nani says everything’s going to be fine now, everything goes to shit. Stitch runs back into the house with Jumba chasing after him and in their struggle they end up destroying the damn house.
Nani, having gotten the job (she must really interview well) arrives back to find Bubbles taking Lilo away and the firemen putting out what was once her home. Nani begs Bubbles not to take her away saying “She needs me!” and Bubbles points to the wreckage and snarls “IS THIS WHAT SHE NEEDS?!”, a moment of righteous badassery slightly undercut when it turns out he doesn’t even have childlocks on his car and Lilo has run off. She meets Stitch in the jungle who shows her his antennae and extra arms and Lilo realises that he’s an alien (Someone please get this girl a job in the pound). Lilo and Stitch are then caught by Gantu who takes them to his ship, but Stitch is able to slip away before blastoff. Nani sees all this and starts whoppin’ Stitch with a branch until he talks. They’re interrupted by Jumba and Bleakley who capture Stitch and Nani begs them to help her get Lilo back. Bleakely says that they can’t, but Stitch talks Jumba into it and he sets him free and all four go after Gantu and Lilo. We now get a scene where Jumba’s ship and Gantu’s have a dogfight over Hawaii.
The big red one, incidentally, is Jumba’s, and you may be wondering why his ship is so massive compared to Gantu’s. Well, there’s a reason for that. You see, in the original version of the scene, it looked like this:
Yeah, the original script actually had Stitch and Jumba hijack an airliner. Then September 2001 happened and everyone was suddenly all “Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh….no.”
Anyway, kick ass action ensues, Stitch manages to down Gantu’s ship and rescue Lilo. But as soon as they arrive back on terra firma, Stitch gets captured. Again. (For crying out loud, Robin doesn’t get captured this often). The Grand Councilwoman has arrived on Earth to take care of business her damn self and proceeds to read Gantu, Bleakley and Jumba the space riot act. She orders Stitch to be taken to her ship and is amazed when he politely asks if he can say goodbye to Lilo and Nani. She asks who they are, and Stitch says “This is my family. It is little and broken. But still good. Yeah. Still good.”
It is such a beautiful line, perfectly delivered and I’ve just realised why Stitch’s voice is so familiar and OH MY FUCKING FUCKING FUCKETY FUCK IT’S GURGI!!!!!!!!!
Okay, it’s not actually the same voice actor but the voices are so similar it’s terrifying. Because it’s like Gurgi. And I liked it. God help, I liked it…
What have I become…
Well, my sudden self loathing notwithstanding, Bubbles (who seems awfully blasé about all these aliens around here) tells Lilo to show the Grand Councilwoman her licence proving that she owns Stitch saying “aliens are all about rules”. See, it turns out that he’s actually former CIA and knows all about aliens, apparently he was the one who tricked them into believing mosquitos were an endangered species. Lilo tells the Councilwoman that if she takes Stitch she’ll be stealing and she relents, sentencing Stitch to exile on Earth under the protection of his new family. And the movie ends with Bubble, Jumba and Pleakley rebuilding Nani’s house and Lilo, Nani, Stitch and David beginning a new life together to the strains of Burnin’ Love.