Forgot to mention it sooner what with all the Pledge ranting I’ve been doing lately, but we got out and saw Lilo and Stitch at the local cinemaplex this past weekend thanks to good friend Eric. I bitch a lot about Disney movies and yet I still go and see them in the theaters as I have an intense love/hate relationship with the studio. Let’s face it, no one on the planet does animation as good as Disney and that alone often makes it worthwhile to see what their latest release is. Still I get so disgusted with how much they change the stories they choose to do that I often end up bitching about it for weeks after. My dislike of Disney’s overly pasteurized storylines is part of why I got into anime so much as there you can find animation with very mature storylines that didn’t always end up with a happy conclusion.
Still, L&S is an original story from the folks at Disney not based on anything previously published so I couldn’t go in ready to complain about how they deviated from any kind of original source material. All the reviews I’d read recently also mentioned that this was a Disney movie of a different bent and this piqued my interest greatly. In a nutshell, I enjoyed this movie quite a bit. Particularly the character of Stitch, who’s a right bastard for the first half of the movie or so. There are no excuses for why Stitch is such a little blue terror other than perhaps the exhortations of his mad-scientist creator that he was designed to destroy and cause chaos. Naturally, Stitch ends up overcoming those tendencies by the end of the movie (wouldn’t be a Disney film if he didn’t), but even then he never apologizes for his past mischief. Instead, he takes the more appropriate action of accepting responsibility for them and going about setting things right once more.
Lilo herself is no angel and I can recognize aspects of my own childhood in hers in terms of her peers finding her just a little too odd and getting into the occasional fist fight (she actually punches another girl square in the face at one point, a first, I think, for a Disney film). Lilo is being raised by her older sister as their parents have died due to some unspecified past event. A social worker is in town threatening to place Lilo in foster care if her older sister can get their act together, which becomes increasingly more difficult with the arrival of Stitch and the resulting chaos he brings. Their life was already chaotic enough without his help.
One thing that struck me about this film is that there isn’t any one “villain” behind everything that happens and every character, even the aliens, are human at their core in terms of having good and bad about them, strengths and failings. Everyone is just trying to live their lives the best they can doing things the way they believe they should be doing them. Some of their choices are good, some are bad, all of them have consequences they have to deal with. Each character impacts on the lives of those around him or her in both good and bad ways. Despite the rather sappy “everything is wonderful from then on” type ending the movie has, the story is to be commended for taking what is a very un-Disney-like approach.
One more thing I liked about the character of Stitch was the fact that he does overcome his genetic engineering to be a mean and nasty creature. I know I’m reading more into this than the writers intended, but to me this is a fairly clear condemnation of the Christian philosophy of human nature. Man, according to Christian philosophy, is inherently evil from his birth and without some motivating factor (God’s wrath) to be good, will choose to commit evil more often than not. Stitch, the mad scientist claims, is designed to destroy and cause havoc and can not do anything else as it is inherently his nature. Yet Stitch does overcome his natural tendencies despite the claims of the scientist. He does this not because of some external threat of punishment from a higher power, but because he sees how his actions impact the lives of people around him he has grown to care about. Stitch becomes a better person (so to speak) because he cares about his new family which has loved him in spite of who he was. That’s a very secular humanist approach to storytelling that I found the most surprising aspect about this movie.