Disney is milking their movies for all their worth these days, by producing sequel after sequel. Nowhere is that more evident than with Leroy & Stitch.
Lilo & Stitch (2002) was a huge surprise, and generated lots of fans for Disney. Almost immediately, a straight-to-video sequel was churned out (Stitch! The Movie (2003)), which was to be expected. But, Disney wasn’t even close to being finished with these characters, as Stitch! The Movie (2003) turned to be more of an introduction to the new animated series “Lilo & Stitch: The Series” (TV) on the Disney channel.
Finally, we thought, that must be the end, right? Wrong. 2 years later, another sequel hit DVD, Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch (2005) which threw us off guard. After all, wasn’t this technically Lilo & Stitch 3? Then, just when we thought that HAD to be the final foray into DVD, along comes Leroy & Stitch.
Since we already have stuck around this long, we figured we might as well check out this 4th film in the series. Could Disney possibly still have fresh ideas left for these characters, or will this ruin the last vestiges of good feelings we have for Lilo and her pal Stitch?
Shockingly, all of the original character voices return for this 4th movie installment – even Daveigh Chase, who was briefly replaced by Dakota Fanning in Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch (2005)! That’s a huge plus, and probably is the main reason this series has run as long as it has (anyone remember how bad The Return Of Jafar was when they replaced Robin Williams as the voice of the Genie?).
That audio familiarity is more important than the visual familiarity by this point. The viewer has now associated the images to the voices so well by this point that they can picture the images when they hear the voices. While the series survived the brief change to Dakota Fanning as Lilo, changing other major characters with Leroy & Stitch, especially the distinctive voices of Pleakley or Dr. Jumba, would have been a disaster.
Since Leroy & Stitch is the 4th movie installment, and it follows a TV series, they have to be running out of plot by this point, right? Wrong again. The old characters the viewer knows so well face 2 new challenges this time around. The first, and most major, is they are split up – not by the silly bad guy Hamsterviel, but by being granted what they’ve always wanted. Stitch becomes a pilot, Dr. Jumba is let back into his lab, and Pleakley is sent to be a teacher in Earth studies at a community college. The separation pains increase when Hamsterviel escapes and is able to produce a whole army of evil Stitch’s.
While the separation of the main characters is the biggest surprise to the viewers, it’s also seems to be a natural progression for the series. With all of the other 625 experiments turned to the good side, there isn’t really a reason for the team to stay on Earth anymore. Unfortunately, this doesn’t present the tense atmosphere to the viewer in Leroy & Stitch it could have earlier on, as the viewer knows almost from the start how that will resolve itself in the end.
There is only one major flaw with this scenario, which most probably won’t catch on to until later in the film: they only succeeded in placing 624 experiments, leaving the sandwich maker on the side of evil with their enemy Gantu. Why would the council award them for a job well done when they aren’t finished? But, that is never mentioned by the council – guess it’s just another bureaucratic snafu.
The other major plot point in Leroy & Stitch has Hamsterviel escaping from prison. He forces Dr. Jumba to create another experiment, based on Stitch, only more evil and more powerful. Hamsterviel then clones this new experiment, which he names Leroy, over and over again until he’s got an army. Hamsterviel then proceeds to capture Stitch, Pleakley, Dr. Jumba and all the other experiments (again forgetting the sandwich maker), setting up his own defeat.
Yeah, that point needs major work. While putting familiar foe Hamsterviel back into the mix seems like a good idea, and making an evil Stitch also seems like a natural evil plan, gathering all of the other experiments together doesn’t seem so smart. If he had just set out to capture Lilo, then none of the other experiments would even have an inkling they were gone, or where to, and Hamsterviel would have won.
A better idea would have been to have Hamsterviel catch Lilo, Stitch, Pleakley and Jumba in Leroy & Stitch. To make the good guys win in the end, they could have had one of the experiments witness the capture. The other experiment would then go around, collect his fellow experiments, then invade Hamsterviel’s prison. That would seem more reasonable then to put all of the experiments in one place and not sedate them in some way.
Despite the viewer’s continual knowledge that the good guys will win in the end (and nothing in the movie ever really tries to tell the viewer otherwise), getting to that ending is still enjoyable, even in this 4th movie installment.
While Leroy & Stitch isn’t as good as the original Lilo & Stitch (2002), it does do a good job of bringing all the elements back together for what seems a final wrap-up to a story that’s spanned a TV series and 4 movies. Plus, it’s still fun to watch this dynamic duo and their pals, even when the conclusion is foregone.
All in all, Leroy & Stitch is a surprisingly good straight-to-video sequel, and worth checking out if you’re still following the adventures of Lilo and Stitch.