Jonesy's Monthly Movie Spotlight- March
“Lilo and Stitch”
It makes perfect sense to me to choose the film that arguably saved my life as my first official “Movie of the Month!”
When I was in the Mariana Trench of depression, I lost absolutely all emotion in normal life. I wouldn’t find lasting emotion again until graduation, four years later. In the midst of epic apathy, my best friend told me to watch this silly little animated move Disney did a while back. Little did I know that in about 2 years, Hot Topic was going to hop on this film faster than Michael Bay can say “explosion.”
But this was before all that.
It was bizarre that, being a self-proclaimed Disney addict, I had never really bothered to see it. When I stole my sister’s Netflix password and watched it, something unexpected happened- I felt something. I felt exactly what the movie wanted to. Joy, compassion, despair, hope, lost- all of it. An hour and a half later, I was emotionally exhausted. Now, I’m not saying a Hawaiian girl and her blue alien are the answer to depression and will absolutely save everyone- it won’t- but for me, it was a great start. But enough mush- on to the film!
For this review, we’ll be discussing plot, characters, and cinematography.
By all laws of film, “Lilo and Stitch” should not have been a good film. The plot is something we’ve seen a million times: First act, girl is sad. Second act, girl gets pet and they must train it. Third act, pet runs away and they have to get it back. It’s a mesh between secret pet, liar revealed, some sci-fi, and family bonding- we’ve seen it before. But for some reason, it works incredibly well here. The creative team behind it has taken mundane plots and breathed new life into them before and would do it again- “How to Train Your Dragon” was also directed by Chris Sanders and Dean DuBois. How are they able to do that?
This is why. Never has Disney ever created a child character this realistic and interesting. Disney children tend to be either waaaay to mature, like mini adults- see the Darlings from “Peter Pan”- or so incredibly annoying that you want to scrape your head against a cheese grater- see Koda from “Brother Bear.” This is rare perfection for ALL film, not just Disney. Lilo is quirky and weird, but not annoyingly so. She’s loud, but she knows when to be serious and the team behind her knows when to let a moment sit. For example, if Lilo made a joke after Nani sings “Aloha Oe,” it would be inappropriate and out of character. They know how much weight these moments hold.
The perfect child character is balanced not by a perfect parent character, but a perfect sibling character. Nani is probably one of my favorite characters of all time. She reminds me of my older sisters, both of them. She’s not a parent and has no idea what she’s doing- and neither does Lilo. Nani is constantly looking for ways to improve life for Lilo, but falling behind in reality. This leads to snaps between Lilo and Nani, always reconciled by the pure tragedy of their situation. Nani cares for Lilo life a real sister does.
I’d also like to take this moment to talk about Nani’s design. Nani has a healthy (well, healthier than most Disney) body weight with accurate proportions, AND has the confidence to wear a belly shirt. This strongly contrasts to the normal Disney body type designs. Just look at this juxtaposition!
Sources: RamWeb, Lilo and Stitch Wiki
Every character in “Lilo and Stitch,” even ‘antagonist’ Cobra Bubbles and actual antagonist Captain Gantu, have defined character arcs. It’s incredibly interesting to examine each character carefully and how they relate to the story and their environment. However, if I were to examine every character, we’d be here forever and never get a chance to look at…
Yes, cinematography in animation is a thing- the camera still is a character. But for our purposes, we’ll be discussing background and set dressing. Is that technically cinematography? No. Do I care? Also no.
“Lilo and Stitch” was the first animated film in a while to return to watercolor backgrounds that blended well with the story. The weren’t demanding or distracting, even in wide shots.
Yet, they still held weight and presence:
“Lilo and Stitch” is my favorite movie. It is not the best movie, not by a long shot. It’s not even the best animated movie. But it is the film that struck such an emotional chord with me that I will always carry ‘ohana in my heart. If you’ve got an hour and a half to spare this month, and like amazing characters, witty dialogue, fun situations, and beautiful backgrounds, check out “Lilo and Stitch” on Netflix or on Amazon Video for $3.99. It’s well worth the price!
Enjoy this month’s movie, and join me again for April’s Movie of the Month!
What’s your favorite March Movie?