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Lilo & Stitch
starring: Tia Carrere, David Ogden Stiers, Zoe Caldwell

by david    January 27, 2003

Some Disney movies are must-see from the first trailer, for me. The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast and the Hunchback of Notre Dame are among those. Others suck outright: Pocahontas, Aladdin (sorry -- I hated Aladdin), Hercules. And some are surprising: the Little Mermaid or the Emperor's New Groove. The previews don't look particularly promising, but the movies are great.

Lilo & Stitch is one of those surprise Disney movies. The trailers looked more than a little cheesy and suspicious, so I didn't see it in the theater. In fact, we just popped it in the DVD player one night when friends were over at our house, expecting it to be little more than background noise to our conversations. But we were immediately engaged in this fast-paced, smart and irreverently funny movie, and the evening changed from a night of pleasant conversation to a movie party.

You already know the story from the ads: a cute alien crash-lands on Earth and is adopted by a Hawaiian family. What you don't know are the important details: Stitch is a fugitive galactic criminal -- a genetically engineered killing machine programmed for, and only for, destruction. Lilo is a troubled little girl who is constantly getting into fights (she actually punches another girl in the face and bites her in the first scene), whose parents have died and is being raised by her older sister. The sister is having trouble balancing a job and substitute-motherhood, and child services is threatening to take Lilo away from her.

Sounds a lot more interesting when you know the details, huh?

And it is interesting. Ultimately, the movie is about the importance of family, and that "family" does not need to be one in the traditional sense. It's a beautiful sentiment, but it's not overly mushy, and the "point" does not, as so often happens in kid's movies, bury the plot and comedy. Lilo and Stitch is funny from start to finish, and moving where it needs to be. The voice work is good, and this new animation team is innovative, providing relatively normal looking characters with humanly achievable body types and a quirky, curvy base shape.

Lilo & Stitch is a fine, funny family film. I know -- the trailers looked stupid. It doesn't matter -- rent it anyway. You'll be pleasantly surprised.


Punch Drunk Love
starring: Adam Sandler, Emily Watson, Luis Guzman, Philip Seymour Hoffman

by david    January 27, 2003

After seeing Punch Drunk Love, it took me about two hours to really decide what I thought about it. While watching it, I was thoroughly engaged, and I walked out of the theater thinking that I liked it quite a lot. The passionately negative reactions of my dear friends (with whom I saw the flick) caused me to re-evaluate my initial feelings, but, in the end, I just really, really liked this weird, short film.

The story is odd, and the plot meanders quite a bit, but the gist is this: Adam Sandler plays a guy who, possibly because of the domineering, over-mothering natures of his eleventy-seven older sisters, just can't get hold of his emotions. Mostly, he's numb, shy and lonely. When he does show emotion, it is almost always anger, which lashes violently out of him, often causing destruction to people and property. Even when he communicates affection, it is combined with anger and violence. In short -- this is one fucked-up dude. The movie is about a few days of his life, during which he pretty much completely falls apart, and finds love. Sort of.

I've always enjoyed Sandler. I think he's funny as hell, sometimes. Films like Little Nicky show that his mean-spirited, frat-boy humor can only go so far, but I really enjoyed both Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison. Anyway, he's very good in this, I think because the character is a serious, troubled variation of his typical quirky loser character. He's engaging, pathetic, sweet and deeply weird, and it just works. Emily Watson, who plays his would-be love interest (who we discover is equally touched), and does a great job, as always. Fine performances come from Luiz Guzman, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and the other supporting characters as well.

Punch Drunk Love is a deeply odd, dark film, which is what probably attracts me most. PT Anderson has typically indulged himself in long, many-heroed intertwining stories -- in this case, he just tells the short, profoundly weird story of one lonely guy, and what happens to him over a few days. I dunno. For me, this film just works. Not everyone will like it -- not everyone has affection for silly, odd flicks which make you feel a little itchy. I tend to love them.

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