The Lilo & Stitch Series
Lilo & Stitch (March 25/09)
Lilo & Stitch is an affable but hopelessly uneven fantasy revolving around a lonely little girl (Daveigh Chase's Lilo) who unknowingly adopts an alien creature (Chris Sanders' Stitch) that's been designed to destroy everything it comes into contact with, and although the two characters quickly overcome their differences to become best friends, their relationship is inevitably threatened by forces both extraterrestrial and Earthbound in appearance. There's little doubt that the distinctive visual style employed by directors Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders plays an instrumental role in initially capturing the viewer's interest, as the filmmakers' use of old-fashioned techniques and watercolor backgrounds prove an ideal complement to the laid-back, downright easy-going nature of Lilo & Stitch's opening half hour. The presence of several effective comedic interludes and a uniformly appealing supporting cast - Kevin McDonald, as a wacky alien scientist named Pleakley, is an obvious standout - cements the amiable atmosphere, yet there ultimately reaches a point at which the film radically shifts gears to become a far more action-oriented and flat-out frenetic piece of work (which, in turn, instills the proceedings with precisely the sort of derivative feel it had otherwise successfully avoided). It's a shame, really, given the strength of Lilo & Stitch's comparatively low-key first half, although - to be fair - the movie does remain marginally entertaining even through its most shamelessly broad sequences.
Lilo & Stitch 2 (August 20/05)
Much like its predecessor, Lilo & Stitch 2 is cute enough - there are a few genuinely funny moments here, while the voice acting is surprisingly effective - although the film does eventually wear out its welcome (this is despite a running time of about an hour). As the film opens, young Hawaiian Lilo and alien creation Stitch are essentially living together in harmony - until it's revealed that Stitch has a glitch that's causing him to occasionally revert to his destructive programming. With the exception of Dakota Fanning as Lilo, the majority of the cast is comprised of performers from the original; and, like the original, Kevin McDonald (as a wacky alien named Pleakley) does the scene-stealing thing with apparent ease. But despite the film's various positive attributes (including a bright, vibrant animation style that belies its straight-to-video status), Lilo & Stitch 2 never quite becomes anything more than passable children's entertainment.
Stitch! The Movie
Leroy & Stitch (June 30/06)
Leroy & Stitch marks the third sequel to the 2002 Disney flick Lilo & Stitch in just under four years, following Stitch! The Movie and Lilo & Stitch 2 (there's also been a television show and a DVD game). As expected, the film has essentially been geared exclusively towards fans of the series - though the surprisingly impressive animation and inclusion of random bits of humor essentially ensure that the movie never quite becomes a flat-out bore. The film revolves around the efforts of Lilo and her three alien pals (Stitch, Pleakley, and Dr. Jumba) to stop the villainous Dr. Hamsterviel, who - armed with an evil Stitch clone - has designs on universal domination. If nothing else, Leroy & Stitch never quite feels like the superfluous sequel that one now associates with the Disney studio; there's a continuing storyline at work here, and it's clear that viewers who've been with the series since the very beginning will get a whole lot more out of the movie than neophytes. That being said, it seems fairly obvious that - unlike animated classics such as The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast - these films are generally meant to appeal solely to younger children (who will undoubtedly thrill to Stitch's broad antics). Thankfully, the movie's conclusion seems to indicate that no further installments are forthcoming - a welcome development, to be sure.