Star-Bulletin Features

Nani, left, has trouble convincing a social worker she's a capable guardian for her younger sister Lilo. David Kawena takes them to the beach to forget their troubles. Providing the voices for the respective characters are Tia Carrere, Daveigh Chase and Jason Scott Lee.

‘Lilo & Stitch’
does justice to Hawaii

"Lilo & Stitch"
Rated PG

Opens tomorrow at Consolidated Kahala, Kapolei, Koko Marina, Koolau, Mililani, Pearlridge, Waikiki and Ward; Signature Dole Cannery, Pearl Highlands and Windward; Wallace Kailua and Laie

Reviewed by Tim Ryan

Disney's much-publicized animated feature "Lilo & Stitch" is a charming and endearing movie and certainly one of the more accurate and respectful presentations of Hawaiian culture by a Hollywood studio.

And that's astonishing for a motion picture designed to appeal to all demographics from Lihue to Long Island.

"Lilo & Stitch" creators Chris Sanders and Dean Dubois have done their homework. The cartoon is a refreshing, unpatronizing and humorous look at our local culture and neighbor island lifestyle (the story takes place on Kauai).

The Hawaiian characters are presented realistically in their use of pidgin in the offbeat story about an orphaned space alien.

The filmmakers clearly understand that the notion of family transcends all cultures and geography, as do the difficulties of childhood and the trauma of being different.

Plot and dialogue (with its many one-liners) are simple enough for children to enjoy and, with an underlining theme of a troubled, lonely child, will certainly give cause for parents to give their kids an extra hug.

Since the parents of 5-year-old Lilo (voice of Daveigh Chase) died in an automobile accident, she's been cared for by her 19-year-old sister, Nani, voiced by Tia Carrere.

Lilo loves animals. She buys peanut butter sandwiches -- not tuna, mind you; that would make her an "abomination" -- for her oceanic friends, and the movie opens with her swimming back to the beach after such a feeding, realizing she's late for hula class.

After being chastised by the kuma hula for being late, and a fight with a taunting girl, Lilo finds comfort listening to her favorite singer, Elvis Presley, singing "Heartbreak Hotel."

An unlikely social worker by the name of Cobra Bubbles checks on Nani and Lilo's living arrangement and doesn't like what he sees, what with the house in disarray and the two girls arguing. Bubbles promises to check on them often.

Meanwhile, on a space ship, a mad scientist has created an amazingly strong, destructive critter called Project 626 (a k a Stitch).

The scientist ends up being locked up for creating such a monster, and Stitch is sent to a planet that imprisons such violent creatures.

But Stitch escapes and crash-lands on the planet Earth, specifically Kauai. He ends up in an animal shelter, where Lilo finds this very unusual and needy "dog" and ends up adopting him.

While interplanetary police search for Stitch, the alien adapts to his new home by eating everything in sight, destroying what he can't fit in his mouth and threatening anyone he doesn't like. His total "unloveableness" makes him more desirable to the equally troubled Lilo.

But leave it to Lilo to teach Stitch the meaning of ohana. "Ohana," she tells him, "means family and never being left behind."

The animators took great care in depicting Hawaii's charm. Drawing from their firsthand study of hula and surfing, the animation is realistic and natural-looking. The surfing sequence featuring Nani and David Kawena (voice of Jason Scott Lee) is particularly impressive.

The background of watercolors -- the first time Disney has used the process in 60 years -- is beautiful in its softness and rich color.

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