'Lilo' is a stitch

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There's a war going on in 'toonland. On one side are the new breed of computer-generated animations such as "Shrek" and "Monsters, Inc.," with a rounded, 3-D appearance. On the other are old-fashioned cartoons with a hand-drawn look, like "Lilo & Stitch," the new Disney feature. Both types have fans, although the last Oscar favored the computer-bred species ("Shrek").

But it takes more to make a movie – even an animation – than finely crafted pictures. Story and dialogue count, too! These were more important than technical ingredients in making the 3-D "Toy Story" and the 2-D "Iron Giant," the past decade's most memorable cartoons.

"Lilo & Stitch" makes a more convincing case for 2-D toons than the recent "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron," partly because its underlying ideas allow for more variety.

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Lilo is a bratty Hawaiian girl whose dysfunctional family gets worse – and then predictably heals – after she befriends Stitch, a bratty genetic experiment who travels to Earth from a distant planet. This plot allows Disney's talented artists to blend laid-back island charm with showy sci-fi action that may be too intense for the youngest moviegoers.

More important is the story itself, and the lively characters it brings together. They include Lilo's older sister, a well-meaning young woman who can't hold a job, and a suspicious-seeming social worker who keeps barging into their lives at inconvenient moments. Also on hand are an amiable surfer and a motley crew of folks from outer space.

"Lilo & Stitch" doesn't use these elements as cleverly as I hoped, but it's still the most original and amusing animation in recent memory.

Kids will love its fantasy and adventure, and grownups should appreciate its whimsical humor. All this plus six Elvis Presley songs on the soundtrack!

• Rated PG; contains cartoon violence.

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