||Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch has a Glitch
2005 - PG - 68 Mins.
|Director: Michael LaBash, Anthony Leondis|
|Producer: Christopher Chase|
|Written By: Anthony Leondis, Eddie Guzelian, Alexa Junge, Michael LaBash|
|Starring: Tia Carrere,
Dakota Fanning, Jason Scott Lee, Kevin McDonald, Kunewa Mook, Liliana Mumy,
David Ogden Stiers |
|Review by: David Rolston
|Official Site: www.disney.go.com/disneyvideos/animatedfilms/liloandstitch2/|
Disney has always been known for its ability to balance art and commerce successfully. I can’t say for sure that Michael Eisner is the devil, but under his watch Disney systematically alienated many of its most creative collaborators and executives -- people who helped elevate Disney in the post Walt period, to the most trusted family entertainment brand name in modern history, synonymous with class, quality and routine excellence. From Jeffrey Katzenberg, to Pixar, to the Weinstein’s, under Eisner’s tenure Mickey seemed less cuddly mascot and more pestilence infected vermin, as far as the creative community was concerned. Employees of Disney were known to have referred to their employer as "Mousewitz", reflecting just how deep the bitterness and cynicism of many employess toiling inside the "magic kingdom" tended to go.
This script has a glitch
As long as the products are good, consumers for the most part ignore what’s going on inside Disney corporate. Under Eisner's regime, a practice was hatched in the bowels of the Disney machine: a cynical, disfigured exploitive practice wrapped in all the pretty packaging that the Disney marketing flacks could muster, and while filling the Disney coffers with coins, managed in a short amount of time to tarnish the Disney image, and dent the compact of trust built between company Disney and the Parents it had dutifully served for seventy years. I speak of course, of “the direct to video sequel.”
“Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch has a Glitch” is yet the latest in this series of lower budget, creatively bankrupt projects designed to cash in on a Disney franchise. It’s not that “Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch has a Glitch” is totally without merit, in fact, it’s fairly passable entertainment when compared with what can be found in the children’s animated TV market. “Lilo & Stitch”, which was a fairly adventurous and inventive departure from Disney’s more traditional fairy tale projects, had been turned into an animated series by Disney, and this is precisely where things derailed. The series took a bittersweet story about a lonely young orphan girl who forges an unexpected bond with a synthetic alien posing as a dog, and turned it into a formulaic cross between Scooby Doo and Men in Black, with “Lilo & Stitch” as futuristic agents protecting an unsuspecting world from a series of creatures unleashed in rapid succession by a bitter Captain Gantu. Given the tone and quality of the original, the television series bears little resemblance to its parent, and exists at best, in a sort of parallel universe inhabited by characters of the same name and likeness, but in all other ways bearing no relation. Considering the scale and scope of the market for which the series was made, it’s certainly understandable that the series needed to gravitate towards the typical cartoon fare with which it competes.
“Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch has a Glitch” promised something entirely different however, namely a legitimate successor to the original, which could pick up the story, characters and themes of the original and expand them. Upon closer inspection, one finds that “Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch has a Glitch” is a product not, of the original creators, but rather, of a group of hired hands unconnected with either the original film or the TV series. Those who pick up the sequel in hopes that it will recapture some of the magic of the original, will find themselves relatively disappointed. Rather than picking up where the original left off and moving the characters forward, “Lilo & Stitch 2” is satisfied merely to repackage its predecessor, with a plot that is listless and episodic (Four credited screenwriters, including Director Anthony Leondis), visuals and sequences that are often pedestrian when compared with “Lilo & Stitch”, and a writer/director more than willing to shamelessly retread both the irreverent style of humor and earnest sentimentality of its namesake, rather than earning any real laughs or emotional payoffs on his own. While most of the voice talent returns, Daveigh Chase who voiced Lilo in the original and the series is replaced here by Dakota Fanning. This was such an assembly line effort, that Disney couldn’t be bothered to arrange for her to voice her character because she was already busy with the TV series. Draw your own conclusions as to what that means in regards to “Stitch has a glitch”.
As “Lilo & Stitch 2” opens, we find the characters living happily on Kauai, pretty much in the conformation so artfully depicted in the closing sequence of “Lilo & Stitch”. Agent Pleakley and Doctor Jumba are now adopted members of Lilo and Nani’s extended family, while Nani has settled down with the earnest surfer David only adding to the picture of domestic tranquility. Unfortunately, Stitch, who has been having disturbing dreams where his destructive alter ego has taken control of him, finds his worst fears manifesting themselves in a series of epileptic style fits (the titular “glitch”) which cause him to briefly go bezerk, and in the process destroy a household item, or fail Lilo at an inopportune time.
The problem here, is that this is precisely the territory mined so successfully in the original – Lilo involving Stitch in some activity, only to have him make a mess of things. By the time “Lilo & Stitch 2” begins, we’ve already seen Stitch at his worst, and seeing him regress takes far too long, and simply isn’t very interesting the second time around, especially in the guise of an undiagnosed illness. As the story progresses, we also get a maudlin story line involving Lilo’s performance in a yearly Hula contest, which we come to find out was won (not at all surprisingly) by Lilo’s mother when she was a young girl. Like many elements in the film, it’s a fairly transparent attempt to revive some of the pathos of the original. Like many of the plot elements in the film, the Hula contest never really pays off, only increasing the impression that as far as the script was concerned, there were either too many cooks, or too many pages removed from the original by the budget focused producer team.
Pleakely and Jumba, who were integral to the original, are only bit players here, and the script works far too hard to drum up some drama, going so far as to interject a subplot focused on some artificial strain in David and Nani’s romantic relationship, which plays as nothing less than a desperate attempt to manufacture laughs at the expense of character. Based on what we know about David and Nani from the first film, it seems unlikely these two pragmatic young adults would allow themselves to fall prey to such silliness.
Plot issues like these plague Stitch has a Glitch. Where the first film seemed to flow effortlessly, the second seems at every turn a contrived and ultimately pale imitation of the original. What parents will find, is that unlike “Lilo & Stitch”, this follow-up has very little to offer its adult audience. Although the film runs a brief sixty eight minutes, I found it a chore to sit through what seemed like a much longer film than it actually is.
With that said, children who enjoyed the original will likely find the film an entertaining follow-up that doesn’t stray far from the elements that made the original such a success. If you’re simply looking for a wholesome addition to the kid’s movie library, then you probably won’t mind shelling out a few bucks for this once it hits the bargain bin. Chances are that's all that Disney was aiming for here, and like most of us, I really expected something better. With Eisner gone, one can only hope that Disney examines some of its practices, and in particular reexamines the role of the creative people who create the characters and scripts that have always been integral to Disney's success. One can only wonder what Lilo & Stitch might have been, had Disney seen fit to reunite Chris Sanders and Dean Deblois as writer directors. Sadly, we'll never know.