What a weird little film. Heartwarming, excellently animated, and surprisingly funny. When viewed as a whole it would be fair to call the plot typical and predictable; and yet, it consistently surprised me. The broad strokes are nothing new: outcasts find each other and discover that family is who you choose. But individual beats are just off the wall! A literal killing machine is inadvertently exiled to Earth by aliens, crash lands in Hawaii, and overcomes his instinctive nature to destroy by surfing, listening to Elvis Presley, and befriending a small girl... to use her as a human shield. Oh, and the aliens can't simply retrieve him, because Earth is a protected nature reserve for - wait for it - mosquitoes.
There's a recurring joke about an American tourist failing to eat mint choc-chip ice cream, a mad scientist, a ridiculous ex-CIA social security worker called Mr. Bubbles, and the best "WTF" faces I've ever seen animated. On top of which, even basic story telling has been jumbled up. Lilo has her character development achieved through a weird sequence of almost unrelated personal traits. She takes pictures of fat American tourists, literaly hisses and growls at people, has bitten another child in the first ten minutes of meeting her, and somehow at no point are these weird behaviours even really questioned.
None of which is meant at all negatively. The sheer weirdness of the story, the characters, everything just plays off one another. The fact that at the same time you have totally normal aspects, like her sister struggling to find work, or David, the most vanilla character ever created, combines to make a film that feels much greater than its constituent parts. I loved it! It's wonderfully off the wall and it knows it, embracing that fact to eschew normal Disney staples like constant music numbers and stereotyped villains, to create an oddball adventure that is a lot of fun to kick back and experience.
I think the fact that Lilo & Stitch starts with an onscreen message that it was "Based on an idea someone had" is possibly the best way to explain the film. It was an idea. They kept parts of the idea. Someone had to have it. Now we have the quirky weirdo of the Disneyverse. Two thumbs up!