Lilo and Stitch 2: Stitch has a Glitch (2005)

Alex Kuperschmidt was the supervising animator for Stitch in the alien’s inaugural 2002 movie, and it is the best look of the character ever. Don’t @ me.

When Stitch was adapted for his television series, his design got a significant makeover. His neck was skinnier and more pronounced, his head got wider and flatter, his ears were thinner, his figure got more slender, his legs got chunkier, his feet got more pronounced, and say nothing of the color saturation. I loved Stitch then and still watched the show religiously, but this new look left a lot to be desired. However, arguably the biggest change was Stitch’s face, which became more emotive. This at least made sense: Stitch was now a co-star to a half hour series, so in the span of twenty-plus minutes, he had to be able to display a wide range of emotions. But for me, a huge part of Stitch’s appeal was not knowing what he was thinking. Those massive black eyes and neutral expression did wonders for a character who would just sit back and watch Lilo and Nani, and you could almost literally see the wheels turning in his head.

So in 2006, imagine my joy at seeing a trailer in which Stitch looked like this:

I was in love all over again. And of course I bought the DVD the day it came out.

Is still any good? Well, let’s partake in the Pacific and Polynesian paradise of perfectly precious proportions!

The Plot: Stitch (Chris Sanders) has been having recurring nightmares about being his terrible, destructive former self again, but Lilo (Dakota Fanning) assures him that’s not going to happen. Her hula class is informed that day that the May Day festival is coming up, and each student must compose their own hula to perform. Kumu tells Lilo her deceased mother won the festival competition when she was her age, and it gets her excited/anxious about coming up with a theme for her hula. But unbeknownst to both of them, Stitch is periodically prone to fits of uncontrollable aggression seizures, constantly messing up all of Lilo’s progress and shaking her trust in her best friend.

Jumba (David Ogden Stiers) explains to Pleakley (Kevin McDonald) that Stitch’s episodes are the result of when he created Stitch, he was interrupted while charging his molecules due to being arrested. Now it’s a race against time before Stitch shuts down.

At the same time, David (Jason Scott Lee) has been dating Nani (Tia Carrere) for three weeks and already worries things are not going anywhere. Pleakley intervenes, telling him the relationship has fizzled (When in reality, Nani’s just constantly busy), and so he dresses in drag and pretends to be various women dating David to make Nani jealous.

How’s the writing?: On the surface, it’s not bad. It has plenty of good, even great dialogue and lots of emotional moments. But once you start digging through the script, you start to notice some huge, gaping issues.

First is the idea that Stitch needed his molecules charged, whatever that means. In the words of one of my favorite internet reviewers, ripped from the comic Superman at Earth’s End:

I mean…what does that even mean? If I unplug my phone while it’s only 15% charged, my phone does not have lapses where it reverts back to factory settings. Now, genetic science is not an abstract, fictional thing, so there must have been a better, more logical impetus to make. Maybe he was given a bad dose of genetic material, maybe he was having something like actual blackouts, or something. It’s a bizarre explanation that makes little sense. Less than twin clones of Hitler? Eh…it’s close.

Second is that Jumba knows the whole time what’s wrong with Stitch…and never tells anyone. Now, when he discovered what was going on, the whole family saw Stitch fling food all over the living room, so Jumba knew there was a serious problem that could lead to injury. We see he spends the next several days working on a device that will fix Stitch, all the while letting his creation continue to cause havoc and strife. Even when he runs into the kitchen to get a toaster to make the machine, he and Pleakley, for some reason, lie right to Nani’s face about wanting toast. Why don’t they tell Nani? Or Lilo at any point? Or, I don’t know, seal Stitch in a bubble until he can get this taken care of? Obviously, it’s so the plot can happen and all the unnecessary emotional agony Lilo endures can happen, too!

Third, there’s a weird mini-arc about Jumba’s confidence in his science-ing. When Jumba completes his molecule charger…thing, which calls a fusion chamber, he switches it on…and it blows up. Jumba achingly confesses he didn’t build it (This was after they went through great pains to steal the toaster), and he says ordered it through a catalogue. To which I say…uh, no! Jumba is a scientist! Yes, his specialty is genetics, but it’s clear he has at least a pretty competent understanding of mechanical engineering. So for a guy who’s on the scientific threshold of making new genetic creatures, he just goes on Amazon Prime and orders a fusion chamber? Even if I grant you that, it hints that Jumba’s confidence in that the one he does make won’t work. Jumba has many flaws, but lack of confidence has never been one of them. It’s just an extra bit of story that didn’t really need exploration. Also, isn’t making genetic creations the whole reason he got arrested? In other words, shouldn’t fusion chambers be at least considered contraband?

Finally, there’s one last big one that’s a spoiler for the ending. Skip ahead if you don’t want to know it. Lilo does finally get Stitch to the chamber, but even though Stitch is at his last 1%, he still dies, Jumba even shuts off the chamber in defeat. But when Lilo takes him out of the chamber and holds his lifeless body, a few moments pass before the machine registers him coming back to life because love. Seriously. Even Pleakley is flummoxed, asking how it’s possible, to which Jumba simply and joyfully says, “It’s not!”. We’ve seen Disney characters come back from the brink of death before, From Trusty to Baloo to Gurgi to Pinocchio to Tinker Bell to Chief to Snow White to the Beast to Esmerelda to Megara to…look, the point is, unless the character is brought back to life as a fakeout through magic, they almost always show they’re still in some significant pain (Trusty’s broken leg, Baloo’s headache, Esmerelda’s fatigue, you get the idea). Instead, this illogical turn of events tries to bank on the magical notion that love has the power to reverse death itself.

I like the idea for the story. I like the character interactions. I like the gags. I like some of the emotions. But the structure of the story is flimsy at best.

Does it give the feels?: Oddly enough, yes. There’s a handful of genuinely sweet moments because the characters are well rounded and true to form. At one point, when Lilo feels inadequate about following in her mother’s footsteps, Stitch plucks a hibiscus and puts it in her hair. He holds up a mirror and shows how much he looks like her and promises they’ll do the hula together, and that’s very sweet and touching. Late in the movie, Stitch short-circuits and accidentally scratches Lilo’s cheek, and his reaction is the stuff heartache is made of.

But if there’s one moment that needs its own place to shine, it’s early on, where Mertle – being Mertle – starts mocking Lilo. Lilo gets ready to throw down, but Stitch – volatile, irascible, destructive Stitch – holds her back and cautions her. When Mertle says “You’ll never be like your mom. Ever!”, it hits everyone with a gasp…and Stitch lets go of Lilo, essentially giving her permission to curb-stomp the little snitch. It’s both a funny and emotional moment where you are disappointed Lilo didn’t bite Mertle.

Who makes it worth it?: Stitch was by far my favorite character from the OG film. When he transitioned over to TV, I sort of lost interest. A good chunk of it was the character redesign, but I also thought Stitch got too…well, for lack of a better word, quirky. He’d blow raspberries at Gantu. He’d talk more and say quippy catchphrases. Like I mentioned before, he was much more expressive. It kind of scrubbed out some of Stitch’s charm.

The animation saved Stitch, and it’s a true demonstration of style being substance. I know this because Stitch retained his quippiness in this movie and never once did I feel disconnected or put off. When Lilo points out the bench where Elvis sat in Blue Hawaii, Stitch sniffs at it, and simply says, “Oh yeah, that’s him.” Had this been done by the people behind the show, Stitch would have gagged, pinched his nose, fanned at the spot, and snarled and swore in his alien tongue. But the sense of restraint allows what emotions he does express that much more potent. This alone is significant, because when he and Lilo engage in that classic “I’m not touching you” spat, it’s that much more hilarious.

Best quality provided: I think one of the secret sauces here is that the characters here have done something almost none have in any other Disney sequel: they grew.

It had become redundant if not outright stupid in how so many sequels, the characters often found themselves either repeating their previous escapades or their next generation were. Here, the stakes seem considerably lower than they were last time. It’s a family drama, and while Stitch’s life is on the line, the primary focus is on how badly he screws up his relationship with Lilo. Thus, Stitch, whom we all know was created to destroy, has taken ‘Ohana to heart and comes to care deeply about Lilo and the consequences of his actions. Nani is still struggling between maintaining a household and working full time, but it’s clear she’s become more present for her sister. David has become a more prominent member of the family, despite being led astray by Pleakley’s crazy schemes. Lilo, a child who was known for her emotional outbursts, still is weird, but seems to have a better handle on her temperament. It all felt like these characters worked at being better people and it felt refreshing.

What could have been improved: Aside from the massive plot holes, only one thing threw me off: the casting of Dakota Fanning as Lilo. The voice was just off enough that it’s easy to tell it isn’t Daveigh Chase, the OG actress. I’m not sure I can say she did a bad job, per se, its just noticeable.

I’m sure Daveigh Chase was probably getting too old, or maybe she was looking for more serious work, but either way, Dakota just didn’t quite sound like her predecessor, and that, oddly enough, threw me off more immediately than the plot holes.

Verdict: I loved this movie when it came out almost purely on a visual and comedic basis. I remember watching the “touching me!” sequence on repeat because it was so funny.

If I stop thinking too deeply about the plot, I can enjoy the movie fine, thanks to the gorgeous animation that makes it look the 2002 went through a mitosis and spawned a movie that looks just like it. I’ll still be distracted by Dakota’s voice, but at least I got some nice eye candy and good comedy. Easily seven out of ten Elvis cosplays.

Thank ya. Thank ya very much.

Author: TAP-G

Writer, former podcaster, entertainment enthusiast. Movies and media have the power to shape our world and vice versa. Let’s take a deeper look at them.

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