If the theatrical grosses, television ratings, and merchandising sales are a good indication, then it is undeniable that Stitch has blossomed into his own franchise, with Lilo often at his side. As Disney's modern definition dictates, no franchise is complete without a sequel, and so we now have Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch. At this moment, you may well be thinking, "I could swear there already was a Lilo & Stitch sequel!" In all fairness, Stitch! The Movie, released to DVD exactly two years ago, was designed to launch the cartoon series that has been a staple of ABC Saturday mornings and Disney Channel every day of the week. As was the case for the studio's last new direct-to-video sequel, Tarzan II, a direct-to-video film without a number in the title (like Tarzan & Jane) does not imply sequality and therefore can be subsequently disregarded and followed with a "proper" sequel, which does not even necessarily have to follow its predecessor chronologically. Or so I assume, as it seems like a decent explanation to me.
Fortunately, Lilo & Stitch 2 appears to pick up precisely where Lilo & Stitch left off, with the trouble-making Stitch embracing domestication to be a part of Lilo and her older sister Nani's ohana (that's Hawaiian for "family", in case you were somehow scratching your head at the many references in the last film). If you've missed out on Stitch! The Movie and "Lilo & Stitch: The Series", both of which have dealt with Jumba's first 625 failed experiments (Stitch's "cousins") let loose on Hawaii, but have seen Lilo & Stitch, that's just fine in terms of prerequisite viewing. That's more or less my story, and, it turns out that Lilo & Stitch 2 not only follows its predecessor in direct chronological order, but it also adheres to similar stylistic and thematic sensibilities. In fact, it is reported that this project was already in stages of planning while Lilo & Stitch was not yet completed.
Lilo & Stitch 2 opens with a disconcerting and realistic sequence in which Stitch (voiced by Chris Sanders, who directed the first film) seems to have reverted to his earlier unfriendly behavior. "Unfriendly" entails "Experiment 626" creating vast chaos around the shore and at his house, concluding with him taking a whack at Lilo. That act may come as a bit of a surprise, but Lilo is actually Disney's first PG-rated direct-to-video animated feature. Whereas some other sequels have opted to dumb down the source material for a tot-friendly affair, this one maintains its predecessor's "edge", which one perceives not because of the "mild sci-fi action" for which the MPAA gave it a more severe rating, but rather the somewhat mature story elements that distinguish it next to the typically unobjectionable DTV outing.
We actually learn early on here that Stitch has been behaving well, but he is plagued by nightmares of turning bad, thus giving the little "cute and fluffy" thing some inner conflict. Soon, the alien's fears begin to come true. Stitch starts enduring uncontrollable electric shock-like fits where his eyes turn neon green, an extra pair of arms pop out, and he behaves recklessly, embarking on a havoc-creating path. Such is the "glitch" that makes for the rhyming subtitle and the central crux of this sequel's plot.
The film actually proceeds to operate on three distinct levels, two of which (the most important threads) are closely tied together. Formerly friendless seven-year-old Hawaiian girl Lilo (now voiced by Dakota Fanning, a tiny young actress with a growing record of big screen acclaim) is preparing for a special hula competition in which she must create an original routine. Having no living parents and no other close allies, Lilo naturally turns to her energetic alien housemate -- who people are unbelievably convinced is a talented dog -- for assistance. At every turn, her struggled efforts to excel at hula the way her mother once did are hindered by Stitch and his inopportune malfunctions.
Explaining Stitch's erratic antics is a brief bit of convenient backstory, in which we discover that after Stitch was birthed by the loony, 4-eyed intergalactic scientist Jumba, his molecules were never fully charged. Surely, anyone knows that you can't have an alien running around without fully charged molecules! So the jolly, plump Jumba (David Ogden Stiers, with a voice amusingly close to the one used as a Russian mafia boss in Jungle 2 Jungle) and his cycloptic assistant Pleakley (voiced by Kevin McDonald) take a break from their roles as Lilo and Nani's messiest and most mischievous houseguests to set things straight in the errant creation before it's too late.
In the third and least significant arc, Pleakley tries to rekindle what he perceives to be a fizzled romance between the ever-busy Nani (again voiced by Tia Carrere) and the underappreciated David (Jason Scott Lee). This subplot fulfills two tasks, by giving Nani and David something to do and ensuring that Pleakley gets to dabble in cross-dressing, which he does in assuming female personalities to make Nani jealous.
Lilo & Stitch 2 unwinds briskly and entertainingly, and in true Disney DTV fashion, the end credits begin rolling just after the one hour mark. Its attentions are chiefly divided among Stitch's moral dilemma -- as he seeks redemption after disastrously wrecking Lilo's hula rehearsal and disappointing his closest friend -- and Jumba's race against the clock. Both paths enable the film to consistently engage and occasionally be funny too. This sequel even manages to deliver surprising amounts of drama in the face of viewers' expectations for a happy ending, and like last time, there are E.T. overtones, a trait that conjures up mostly favorable movie memories. Another feature of the first film is upheld by the continued musical presence of Elvis Presley. Nearly every time there is a montage, the film makes efforts to weave in another Presley song. As opposed to last time, where most were contemporary covers, these tunes are mostly sung by the King himself.
The vibes that this production gives off somehow remind me of late 1980s animation, with a tone that is a cross between television cartoons (plotting, feel) and feature films (appearance). In the visuals department, the animation comes satisfyingly close to the original film's, remaining probably as faithful to its appearance as has been seen in any of the studio's direct-to-video follow-ups to date. It's a nice-looking work, which illustrates that appealing 2-D animation can still be made, even if computers are used a lot to achieve or supplement. It is also one of the DTVs with the most cinematic sensibilities I have encountered.
The voice cast of Lilo & Stitch 2 is almost completely comprised of actors who lent their vocals to the original film. These returning personalities all fall comfortably back into character, handling both colorful (Stiers, McDonald, and the impressively monstrous Sanders) and down-to-earth (Carrere, Lee) roles with clear respect and care for the project. The lone new addition is a major and somewhat surprising one; Lilo, voiced by the now-15-year-old Daveigh Chase in the first film and TV series, is now played by fellow "creepy child o' cinema" Dakota Fanning of I Am Sam and War of the Worlds fame. While Fanning performs the role dutifully, her vocals clearly don't match Chase's, so this is an inconsistency you have to accept from the beginning.
Overall, Lilo & Stitch 2, while never approaching excellence, manages to be an enjoyable outing that is much in line with the last wholly-embraced traditionally animated film it follows. At its weakest, it remains innocuous. Throughout, it holds your attention with a story that recalls its roots and characters who are as you remember them, all the while still plowing forward to face new challenges in an interesting fashion. Maybe my appreciation of this sequel stems from the fact that despite the authority with which Stitch has taken center stage among all Disney merchandise, the first film is something I view as diverting but not sacred. In any event, if slightly more breezy and less satisfying, this worthy follow-up produces similar fun without redundancy.
VIDEO and AUDIO
Lilo & Stitch 2 appears in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, a fact Disney singularly neglects to mention anywhere on the packaging. Though this presentation is touted as "family-friendly widescreen" on the sequel's official website, it is actually in the aspect ratio being employed for all of DisneyToon Studios' direct-to-video features today and 16x9 can be considered the original dimensions of the cartoon. The film looks mostly good, as you'd expect from such a new production which aspires to the visual potency of its predecessor and early Disney animation that boasted a watercolor look. The transfer's sole shortcoming is that it exhibits the commonplace phenomena known as "edge enhancement" - minor ringing appears around characters and locations throughout as if Stitch is pleading you to turn down your already-established ideal sharpness setting. Such a trait is tough to forgive following the flawless appearance of earlier DTVs like Tarzan II and The Lion King 1�, but it doesn't hinder the experience much, and if you are unable to overlook it, you can always tinker with your television/monitor's levels to find more pleasing results if willing. Otherwise, the transfer excels -- the element is expectedly and impeccably clean; colors are vibrant, consistent, and non-bleeding.
With its spacious, effective, and consistently praiseworthy sound design, you might forget Lilo & Stitch 2 was not tailored for theaters. As Disney has done more often for its sequels than its animated classics, the feature's audio is offered in both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS varieties. Both will satisfy, as the separate compression techniques yield little noticeable difference. Dialogue is consistently crisp and natural sounding. The various front and back channels are called upon with appropriate regularity and sequences with music or effects to give your system a workout are abundant. Overall, the discs boasts a first-rate effort in audio, as either soundtrack here can rival the strongest of theatrical animation mixes.
As has become the norm for Disney's direct-to-video films, the Lilo & Stitch 2 DVD is very light on bonus features, lacking even a fluffy look into production in favor of two youth-oriented activities and a music video. Fulfilling the last of those obligatory tasks is the first supplement listed, Jump5's music video (3:05) for their end credits cover of "Hawaiian Rollercoaster Ride." Their revved-up pop version isn't quite as pleasing on the ears as the soothing original which opens both this film and its predecessor. The video features standard teen-music technical sensibilities, which insist that no shot lacks fast motion or lasts longer than a few seconds. The four members of the Disney favorite but otherwise none-too-famous pop group party around a beach well into the night, dancing amidst campfires and flame-twirling natives in grass skirts, which must mean we're in Hawaii! Clips from the sequel are weaved in throughout, both filling the screen and appearing on monitors around the sandy festivities. If Jump5's quick, rocky treatment of the catchy tune doesn't do it for you, perhaps you'll be amused by the Caucasian tongues being twisted to utter Hawaiian lyrics at a fast tempo.
The first of two set-top games, "Where's Pleakley?", isn't even listed on the case, but it proves to be one of the most inspired and fun of Disney's many DVD games, while still squarely fitting the definition of "simple." Remember those "Where's Waldo?" books, where you would search through two pages of fully-drawn crowds to find the bespectacled, striped-shirt-wearing title character? That's basically what this is, only more interactive, less challenging, and with the one-eyed alien Pleakley as your target. There are three ways to play: by yourself (where the quicker you are, the more points you accumulate), against a second player (), or in "Exploration Mode" (where you choose one of five otherwise randomly-selected settings and speed doesn't matter). As straightforward as this is activity is, there are two ways its programmers could have failed: (1) by making only Pleakley "selectable" and (2) by having Pleakley hide in only one place per location. Fortunately, they addressed both of these areas. Any character in the crowds can be chosen, but only Pleakley yields a "win." As far as the second issue goes, while replay value is somewhat limited, you can get the same location and a different hiding place. That's probably more than what needs to be said about it, but those who normally avoid DVD games might be pleasantly surprised by this little fun one, which appears to be narrated by David Ogden Stiers in his action verb-loving Jumba voice.
The second game, "Jumba's Experiment Profiler", seems far better suited to either a DVD release of "Lilo & Stitch: The Series" or the newly-announced Leroy & Stitch, since it has nothing to do with Stitch Has a Glitch and everything to do with "the other 625 experiments" as documented in the series and its corresponding direct-to-video movies. In this multiple choice quiz, Jumba fills in missing areas of his database by asking a question about what experiment is best suited for a certain task. This is followed by brief profiles (clips of what I'm guessing is the series) of the four experiments you can answer from, and then you provide an answer. Respond correctly to three questions and you win. Many of Jumba's back-handed compliments and putdowns are taken directly from the (more entertaining) preceding activity.
Last and most appealing of the four supplements, "The Origin of Stitch" (4:35) is a curious but captivating short film, directed by Mike Disa and former Disney animator/Mulan co-director Tony Bancroft. In it, some errant soccer play leads Stitch to discover Jumba's secret computer which reveals the upsetting intentions the scientist had in creating Experiment 626. A subsequent talk with Jumba over cookies and milk puts the furry blue creature at ease. I suppose this piece, produced by Christian animation group Toonacious Family Entertainment, exists as a type of segue between Lilo & Stitch 2 and Stitch! The Movie, as it hints at things to come (which have already come via the 2003 DTV and subsequent TV series). Though rather brief, this cartoon boasts a cinematic feel, which is complemented by its presentation in 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1.
Menus and Packaging
The understated 16x9 menu screens are appropriately themed, each offering island-sounding instrumentals and pleasing watercolor-ish imagery from the film. They're animated to a degree, with the Main Menu demonstrating Stitch's good and bad sides aurally (he fills in and erases the recurring good/bad icon accordingly). Transitions take you to a different image on the wall, which acts as background for the usual assortment of selection screens. Like the two Disney direct-to-video sequels which have already made their debut in 2005, Lilo & Stitch 2 is accompanied by the studio's patented FastPlay playback mode which cycles through everything without requiring you to press a button. As usual, a subtitle appears over the end credits informing you that a selection of bonus features will follow the film.
As long as you don't choose the Menu option at the opening FastPlay selection screen, the typical spattering of previews for other Disney ventures will play. Before the feature, there is a promo for Cinderella, a brief "Disney Channel Movie Surfers" vignette previewing their previews of The Greatest Game Ever Played and Tim Allen's The Shaggy Dog remake, and a spot for next spring's series-concluding DTV Leroy & Stitch. The Sneak Peeks menu houses additional promos for Toy Story: 10th Anniversary Edition, Kronk's New Groove, Bambi and the Great Prince of the Forest (which has actually been retitled Bambi II, though that's not noted here), My Scene Goes Hollywood: The Movie, and "Kim Possible" on Disney Channel.
As is now to be expected for Disney's highly-marketed direct-to-video sequels, Lilo is packaged in a black keepcase and held within a cardboard slipcover which merely duplicates the front cover artwork, but for once, slightly differs from the back. Inside the keepcase, there is a fold-out poster for My Scene Goes Hollywood: The Movie, a two-sided insert with chapter selections and extras overview, and a coupon booklet which predictably promotes upcoming DTVs (Bambi II, Kronk's New Groove) and offers savings on obvious (Tarzan II DVD, the new Lilo & Stitch Island Favorites CD) and not-so-obvious (Land O'Frost lunchmeats and Dole fruit bowls) products.
In terms of appearance, themes, and tone, Lilo & Stitch 2 comes satisfyingly close to its predecessor without feeling like retread ground or excessively familiar territory. That feat alone may not qualify this follow-up as an outstanding production, but it does advance the film beyond most of its direct-to-video sequel kin. While Stitch Has a Glitch leaves room for improvement in its comic and dramatic deliveries, it gladly does not pander to win over younger, less discerning viewers. It is more invested in staying true to the characters and core of the original, while packing in just enough creativity to sufficiently continue the tale. In terms of bonus materials, the DVD is less commendable than the feature, offering brief and varying diversion in just a handful of supplements. At least the feature presentation makes a strong impression, with a terrific soundtrack and an imperfect but highly pleasing widescreen transfer.
Overall, Lilo & Stitch 2 does not enter the upper echelon of Disney animation, but it does stand out among its divisive class of sequels. It should please fans of the original film as well as those more skeptical of direct-to-video fare, if not with the certainty of the studio's finest work.
Lilo & Stitch 2
Movie & DVD Details
Directors: Tony Leondis, Michael LaBash
Voice Cast: Chris Sanders (Stitch), Dakota Fanning (Lilo), Tia Carrere (Nani), David Ogden Stiers (Jumba), Kevin McDonald (Pleakley), Kunewa Mook (Kumu), Jason Scott Lee (David), Liliana Mumy (Mertle), Jillian Henry (Piggy), Emily Osment (Tia)
Songs: 'Hawaiian Rollercoaster Ride', 'I Need Your Love Tonight', 'Rubberneckin', "Always", "Little Less Conversation (JXL Radio Edit Remix)", "He Makana Ke Aloha (A Gift of Love)"
Running Time: 68 Minutes / Rating: PG
1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
DTS 5.1 (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: August 30, 2005
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Black Keepcase with Cardboard Slipcover