review by Zach B.
MPAA Rating: G
Running Time: 60 minutes
Starring: Chris Sanders, Daveigh Chase, Tia Carrere, Ving Rhames, David Ogden Stiers, Kevin McDonald, Zoe Caldwell, Kevin Michael Richardson, Jeff Bennett
Written by: Robert
Gannaway & Jess Winfield
Directed by: Tony Craig & Robert Gannaway
Retail Price: $29.99
Features: Dr. Hamsterviel's Trivia Challenge, Experiment Finder, Experiment Gallery, "Aloha, E Komo Mai" Music Video, Sneak Peaks. DVD-ROM: Register Your DVD
Specs: 1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English DTS 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital, English Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selections (12 Scenes)
Released: August 26th, 2003
You knew this was coming. Come on. After the success of summer 2002's "Lilo & Stitch," which might I add is the only 2-D animated movie in recent memory to actually make a respectable amount of money, Disney wasted no time in making the movie a franchise - something they've done with pretty much every other movie they released in theaters since 1992's "Aladdin" (thanks to the introduction of direct-to-video movies). With that said, "Stitch! The Movie" is Disney's latest attempt to cash-in and actually plays a part to a much bigger whole: it acts a pilot to the new "Lilo & Stitch" cartoon series.
"Stitch! The Movie" is pretty much a half-assed recycling of the original film. Stitch and Lilo still live in Hawaii, and Stitch is still struggling to fit in. Things go awry when an alien-Hamster villain from space (who sounds French - he must be evil!) wants back the original 625 experiments that Jumba, the mad scientist from the first movie who now lives with Lilo and Stitch, created. Jumba is kindapped, and his lackey, the "is-he-or-isn't-he-a-homosexual" cross-dressing alien Peakley (also living with Lilo and Stitch), locks up the container that holds the other experiments in little balls.
Peakley warns Lilo and Stitch that the other experiments are dangerous, and if they're released, mayhem will ensue (Pandora's Box, anyone?). The experiments themselves are activated by water. So of course, Lilo and Stitch think they can save Jumba with help from one of Stitch's "cousins." They end up getting hold of the container and then release an electricity-powered alien who they then attempt to capture. Then there are other rescues, other captures and so on. All that you need to know is that Lilo makes a big speech about how we're all connected in some way like family, and 623 alien capture balls are released into space and somehow all end up in Hawaii. (This is where the TV series kicks into gear: Lilo and Stitch must retrieve the other 623 aliens - may the Lord help me if the show lasts 623 episodes, though somehow I'm sure it'll last two or three seasons at the most. Oh, and Disney - "Pokémon" is so 5 years ago!)
This movie barely qualifies as feature-length (just like most Disney direct-to-video flicks) - the movie is 57 minutes long followed by 3 minutes of credits. If the movie was pretty good that'd be fine, but the problem with "Stitch! The Movie" is that it's a mess simply meant as a marketing gimmick. Disney figures that people who liked the original movie (there are a lot of them) will plunk down 20 bucks for this, and in turn, then watch the TV series and hopefully, buy millions worth of Stitch merchandise. And you know what? It's probably going to happen.
What's most annoying about the movie is that it doesn't add to the relationship of the characters one bit. Lilo and Stitch are still respective outcasts while Lilo's big sister, Nani, isn't given anything to do in this sequel but worry. The characters don't grow into anything new or really take away anything from what happens in the story. A lot of the story is science-fictiony, as in the first movie. It seems to work here decently, so if you loved those elements from the first movie (I wasn't a big fan of them), there's a lot more of it.
Another problem with "Stitch! The Movie" has a tendency to jump all over the place - the movie basically comes down to chase sequences and racing against time to find or rescue someone else. I wasn't a big fan of the last 20 minutes because it felt like the filmmakers weren't sure what to write about. So instead of what seems like a decent climax, we pretty much get three of them - and it's monotonous and old hat. The consistency is also a bit off in comparison to the first movie. Isn't it supposed to be taking place in Hawaii circa the 1950s? If that's so, then why do we get two cell-phone references but there's an old-time TV? The film is also incredibly light - gone is the sweet somberness of the first movie and while it teaches something about family, it's the same lesson from the original that's incredibly tacked on instead of being wonderfully interwoven.
The film does have its admirable points though, but it's not enough to save the movie. First off, with the exception of Jason Scott Lee as David, the original voice cast from the movie is back and they do a good job (yep, Ving Rhames even returns). Unfortunately, the emotion-less story doesn't given the voice actors much to work with (I wonder what Chris Sanders, who co-wrote/co-directed the original and voices Stitch, thinks about the whole franchise expanding out). The film's animation, done by Disney's TV department, is a cut-above their usual direct-to-video flicks. It's smooth, doesn't look too bland and is pretty colorful. It's nice that the backgrounds are watercolor drawings too - just like in the first flick. Finally, the musical score blends in well and sounds pretty good.
"Stitch! The Movie" is simply a decent supplement for those who enjoyed the original film, but nothing more. What could have been a more complex and more original sequel (the potential is there, methinks) simply becomes "been there, done that - now watch our new TV show." Die-hard "Lilo & Stitch" fans will probably want to own this one, but if you're interested, a rent will suffice. And if you do end up tuning into "Lilo & Stitch: The Series" because of this, then Disney has done their job.
Presented in "family-friendly" widescreen at the aspect ratio of 1.66:1, "Stitch: The Movie" looks great (and yes, it is anamorphic to boot). Oddly enough I noticed two or three blemishes, and the movie has the slightest bit of noise. Other than that, the movie looks fantastic. Detail is wonderful, the wide variety of colors are bold, vibrant and are well-saturated and it looks very crisp and smooth. The movie doesn't look grainy, black levels are rock solid and I didn't notice any edge enhancment. This is certainly a fine transfer from the mouse house.
Disney has included English Dolby Digital 5.1 and English DTS 5.1 tracks to accompany the film (as well as a Spanish Dolby track and French 5.1 Dolby Digital track). Each one sounds pretty great but are pretty hard to distinguish. In comparing the two tracks, I'd guess I'd have to go with the DTS since it sounds a little bit more full and sharper. But I watched the movie in Dolby Digital and it sounds excellent, and is filled with just as much life and energy. The movie does pack a lot of opportunities for surround sounds given it's action-filled chase scenes, and while those scenes do jam in a lot of great noises with firepower and spaceships, much of the movie is kept to the front channels which I found a bit. There are some nice surround effects, particuarly with the musical composistions (and the ending credits song) and when characters call out to other characters, but I found myself yearning for more surrounds. Still, the sound on all the tracks are very sharp and all the elements are finely tuned with each other, so there's no overpowering going on. Also included are English closed captions and English subtitles.
You won't find anything of substance here. Dr. Hamsterviel's Trivia Challenge tests viewers on their knowledge of not only the movie, but the TV series as well (better be a constant watcher if you're to succeed at the quiz!). Another interactive game, the Expierment Finder, is hosted by Jumba as you help him find some alien experiments. There's an Experiment Gallery too where you get to see a picture and hear/read a bio on some of the other aliens (a poster of these aliens are included with the DVD). The disc also includes the "Aloha, E Komo Mai" Jump 5 Music Video, which is simply the song played over the end credits that is played against a clip montage of the movie. Lame.
Topping things off are Sneak Peaks for "The Lion King" DVD, "Brother Bear," the "Sleeping Beauty" DVD, "Finding Nemo" and a full-on marketing assault for "Lilo & Stitch" with ads for the interactive DVD game and of course, the new television series. DVD-ROM users can also Register Your DVD, as with all Disney DVDs. I don't know if that's really a feature.
"Stitch! The Movie" is the epitome of an average home video sequel and of Disney creating a franchise. With that said, stick to the original movie. But if you must own it, the steep retail price of $29.99 is hard to justify given the lack of extras. But the transfer is excellent, and the 5.1 sound mixes are pretty nice. Too bad the movie doesn't live up to the original... not that I expected it to or anything.