Stitch: The Movie!

Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 08/24/05 20:07:05

"Occasionally fun, mostly just obligatory."
2 stars (Pretty Crappy)

Before “Lilo & Stitch” even hit theaters, Disney was already hard at work on both a sequel and a TV series. You’d think that was a sign of arrogance - after all, how could they be so sure the movie would be enough of a hit to warrant such follow-ups? But remember, this is Disney, the place where every movie, popular or otherwise, has been getting sequels, and most of the characters have been getting TV shows as well. It’s not arrogance as much as it is a case of “well, that’s what we always do.”

The sequel is “Stitch! The Movie,” and it’s less a worthy sequel than it is a cheap set-up for the TV show, a pilot episode disguised as a direct-to-video movie. The back-to-back production does allow for a few improvements over the usual Disney sequel problems; the animation is better than usual (not as rushed, not as cheap), the entire cast has returned (instead of the usual Disney studio regulars hired as replacements on such projects), and the picture feels livelier, less like a soulless, “mandatory” project.

It is missing a great deal of the original movie’s heart, though. That one was a cute tale of misfits finding family, with lovable characters and a few memorable moments. This one’s more sitcom-y, less endearing, a little bland. That one saw Disney trying for something new in terms of animation style, storyline, and character. This one sees those new things being reshaped into more traditional stuff.

The premise of “Stitch!” (and, by default, the upcoming show) is that mad scientist Jumba (voiced again by David Ogden Stiers) has smuggled his previous 625 genetic experiments to Earth in “unactivated” form. Looking like marbles, these experiments will spring to full size life once dipped in water.

For “Stitch!,” Jumba is kidnapped by an old rival who wants the experiments for himself, and Lilo and her blue alien buddy decide the best way to save him is to activate one of the experiments. Things don’t go as planned, and soon a Gremlin-like beast is zipping around Hawaii, sucking up all the electricity.

Experiment 625 also gets activated, and it turns out he’s just like Stitch, only yellow and lazy. Sounding like Gilbert Gottfried doing a Danny DeVito impression, 625 spends most of his time talking about bologna sandwiches. Kids may find this very funny. I didn’t. (More importantly, neither did my daughter.)

The saving grace of “Stitch!” comes from Kevin McDonald, returning as the nerdish alien Pleakly. McDonald is a natural for comic voice-over acting, and here he earns every laugh. (There’s a great bit where Pleakly starts phoning every planet alphabetically, starting with Planet Aaaaaaaaa.)

But these laughs don’t come often enough, and while “Stitch!” will entertain the tykes for an hour, it’s not memorable enough to make it a keeper. It’s better than “Cinderella II” and the like, but it still feels less like a film and more like a product. Sure, you might want to see this to get a headstart on the TV show, but if the TV show’ll be anything like this, why bother?

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