For anyone who was between 8 and 14 for the movie's 2002 release, I probably don't need to convince you it's a great film. If you're a little older and remember The Little Mermaid and other traditionally-rendered films fondly, I think you'll take the film for its art style alone. Watercolor backgrounds and some great character art direction make for a really watchable and colorful film, not to mention the fluid and sometimes manic motion seen in Stitch and the other alien characters.
If you'd like a really short review, please read the final paragraph of this review. If you'd like to read a little more about how the movie might be taken, keep on reading.
But it's not just a bauble. The plot sees a colorful and funny cast of aliens interacting with a struggling pair of sisters living on Hawaii's Kauai island, just as DCFS asks pointedly if younger sister Lilo is better off living with older sister Nani. The arrival of Stitch (an alien genetic experiment gone awry) throws everything into chaos for them both, including some pretty great scenes when Nani tries desperately to find a new job only to have Lilo and Stitch ruin her chances accidentally. It's the best use of a montage I've seen in a long, long time and gives some good laughs along the way.
The A plot revolves around a family dynamic which incorporating Stitch by degrees and Nani's struggle to keep Lilo in her life. The B plot is the alien federation's attempts to secure Stitch ("Experiment 626") and put him in exile. The final act marries the A plot and B plot well, and it finishes on a high note. Not typical 'Disney pie in the sky, everything's good forever' stuff, but Lilo and Nani have a chance at a better life.
There are some moments that are pretty painful for an older teen or adult to watch, particularly one scene where it becomes clear Lilo should be placed in foster care, and for some Nani's struggles strike close to home. It's not framed the way most Disney films approach "broken" families - both Lilo and Nani need each other, but they're both ill-equipped to support each other. That's not exactly fixed by magic wand at the culmination of the movie, but the new house and a wider support network (including two exiled scientists from Stitch's federation of planets) suggest things might get easier.
Most kids will focus on Stitch - I mean his name is in the title! Trying to cope with his "genetic programming" and unable to act on his aggression, he comes to terms with not currently having a "family" as a spliced clone. He comes to make his own extended family with Lilo, Nani, and a few secondary characters. In the end he's a hero for saving Lilo from a kidnapping by an overzealous space captain out for Stitch's bounty, and Stitch remains happily exiled on Earth with his new family or "ohana." There's plenty of funny "bad boy" behavior and trickery by Stitch, and kids and adults alike will enjoy the action scenes. As violence goes it's bloodless but dynamic, fun, with huge sweeping motions and rolling fight scenes.
If it's a rainy afternoon and you have some kids over, pop some popcorn and watch this. Be prepared for a few "pew pew pew" sound effects and giggles every time Stitch scurries on six (yes, six) limbs. If not, there's nothing to stop you from enjoying a well-animated movie about family and aliens that doesn't pluck at the same heartstring over and over again. It knows its marks, it makes it, but it's not cloying, and its execution in animation and plot are both pretty neat.