Latest made-for-vid sequel to “Lilo & Stitch” proves a far worthier follow-up to the original 2002 theatrical feature than last year’s schmaltzy “Lilo & Stitch 2.” Indeed, “Leroy & Stitch” recaptures much of the first toon’s frenetic flavor while also adding genuinely clever riffing on the more recent of George Lucas’ “Star Wars” trilogies. Tykes and preteens who enjoyed earlier “Stitch” pics doubtless will be pleased, but the new vidpic could also expand the Disney franchise’s appeal to older demographics. Expect stellar rental and sell-through biz.
The time out, the hyperactive Stitch — a pint-sized, bright-blue extraterrestrial also known as Experiment 626 — has to hold his own onscreen against an equally rambunctious alien: Leroy (a.k.a. Experiment 627), a bright red bad boy created in the same laboratory as Stitch by rotund and Russian-accented Jumba (voiced by David Ogden Stiers).
Blame it all on the wicked Hamsterviel (Jeff Bennett), a rabbit-like would-be dictator with an outrageous accent worthy of Monty Python. While Stitch was being rehabilitated (more or less) on Earth as the best buddy of little Lilo (Daveigh Chase), a spunky Hawaiian youngster, Hamsterviel forces a reluctant Jumba to create Leroy — and several hundred equally nasty clones — as part of his villainous plan to overthrow the Grand Councilwoman (Zoe Caldwell).
To thwart Hamsterviel, Stitch, newly installed as a galactic commander, needs help from Lilo, Jumba, Pleakley (a one-eyed, three-footed ally voiced by Kevin McDonald) — and all 625 other Experiments, including the sandwich-loving Reuben (Rob Paulsen).
Helmers Bobs Gannaway (who co-wrote the script with Jess Winfield) and Tony Craig do a bang-up job of keeping things moving as “Leroy & Stitch” bounces back and forth between Kauai and the farther corners of the universe. Everything leads to an elaborate clash between the forces of good and evil that recalls the climactic confrontation in — of course! — “Attack of the Clones.” Earlier scenes are peppered with wink-wink allusions to “The Phantom Menace” and “Revenge of the Sith.” The resulting sight gags will keep teens and adults amused, even while younger viewers enjoy the animated action.
Much like “Lilo & Stitch 2,” the new vidpic faithfully replicates the 2002 feature’s visual scheme — there’s a lovely watercolor look to backgrounds — during Hawaii-based scenes. There’s a hint of ’50s Warners cartoons — and, of course, more recent George Lucas spectacles — to the otherworldly sequences. “Leroy & Stitch” also reprises the gimmick of using appropriate Elvis Presley standards on the soundtrack. Vocal talents Daveigh Chase (who was replaced by Dakota Fanning in “Lilo & Stitch 2”), Chris Sanders (who does Stitch and Leroy) and Tia Carrere (as Lilo’s underutilized older sister) are among the welcome returnees from the original pic.