So, what can a body say about Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch? It exists. It's probably a better fit, formally, with the original Lilo & Stitch from 2002 than the first of that film's direct-to-video sequels, Stitch! The Movie, but it's not nearly as compelling a follow-up from a storytelling standpoint. Also, it does not have any meaningful continuity with Stitch! The Movie, and while it purportedly takes place earlier in the franchise timeline, it's honestly more the case that it takes place in some other perception of reality altogether. Even by the standards of Disney sequels, which almost uniformly fail to justify their existence, Stitch Has a Glitch - which I'm tempted to abbreviate as Lilo & Stitch SHAG, because I am a filthy-minded child - is just a whole big pile of nothing at all. In hacking through Stitch! in comments, the consensus emerged that part or most of the appeal of Lilo & Stitch sequels is very much that they offer a chance to visit once again with the characters, and particularly with the franchise being set in Hawai'i, the locus of all the best low-stakes hanging-out in the world, that's not even a weak defense. But it's absolutely the only thing that Stitch Has a Glitch has going for it, and surely the concurrent TV series based on the same movie offered a better chance to thus hang out, particularly since it still had the voice of the "real" Lilo, Daveigh Chase, where Stitch Has a Glitch replaced her with Dakota Fanning; ultimately, all young white American girls sound kind of similar, but Fanning's Lilo is sufficiently brighter and more chipper than Chase's that it's kind of hard to reconcile the two iterations of the character, and also hard to buy this new version as being ethnically Hawai'ian. So much for hanging out with characters we've previously liked.

Taking place a couple of weeks after the first movie, Stitch Has a Glitch involves the playfully destructive genetic experiment named Stitch (Chris Sanders) by his human friend Lilo developing - you will not believe this shit - a glitch. Apparently, when roly-poly alien mad scientist-turned-peaceable exile to Earth Dr. Jumba Jookiba (David Ogden Stiers) was finishing off his experiment 626, he was interrupted by the intergalactic police just seconds before completing the electrical charge of 626's molecules. Thus Stitch has always been unstable, but it's taken this long for that to begin manifesting itself. The bad news is that this means that at random intervals, the Lilo-trained good Stitch is briefly replaced by the native behavior of bad Stitch, who destroys everything he can get his hands on in short order. The worse news is that the clock is ticking, and if Jumba and his assistant Pleakley (Kevin McDonald) can't figure out how to cobble together a fusion chamber from Earth technology before Stitch runs out of his rapidly depleting stored energy, the little mutant will run down and die.

Meanwhile, Lilo & Stitch know nothing about this; she's busy trying to win her school's May Day hula contest (I was stunned and staggered to learn that May Day is actually a thing in Hawai'i, though in a very personalised variant from its customary European incarnation), telling an ancient legend in dance that describes a goddess and a mortal becoming great friends. It makes all the sense in the world to invite her very best friend in the world to perform with her, but the glitchy Stitch is too unreliable to trust with this kind of work, and without having any idea what's behind his outbursts, the little girl becomes increasingly angry and their friendship begins to buckle under the strain.

Having circled around this for a while, knowing only that it left me profoundly dissatisfied without having any real idea why, I think I've come up with some answers. For one, there's an exaggerated mismatch of conflicts: "Stitch is about to die!" is a in a different register altogether from "friends are having a spat!" but the light, devil-may-care needs of the franchise puts the latter plot in the limelight, and while it's a perfectly functional story to tell in this universe, using these characters, it's too intimate and domestic to let us have access to the higher stakes in the B-plot. That is, it's hard to take seriously the film's contention that this is a serious issue when it's treated with such bubbly comedy, and when the film contends even more that the real conflict is in the friendship. All of which fails to set up the movie's finale, which makes a huge leap into teary-eyed kiddie-friendly melodrama, aiming to play the heartstrings even more vigorously than the sweet and sentimental first movie did. Apparently this has worked for many viewers - Stitch Has a Glitch generally has a not-terrible reputation for a DisneyToon sequel - but I will confess that my stony heart was moved not at all, and indeed I found the end of the movie to be its most contrived, ineffective part, a combination of cheap sentiment and boilerplate science-fiction nonsense.

The other big problem is that, because of the writing, and performance, and story structure, Lilo is sort of unpleasant in this movie. It's a case of the audience being so much better-informed than the character that it's hard to dumb ourselves back down to her level; since we know the reasons for Stitch's aberrant behavior, and the danger involved, all of Lilo's carping about what a jerk he's being reads as callous and petty. A fleeter, more self-conscious movie might have found a way to play this as unintended tragedy: a little girl with only a limited sense of what goes on in the great wide world responding to her friend's mortal illness with impatience at him for getting sick, not know what that actually entails. Of course, that would probably have been a bitterly depressing movie, but at any rate, Stitch Has a Glitch isn't remotely fast enough on its feet to approach that kind of perspective, anyway. Lilo is just being nasty and unforgiving to Stitch, and even though we know that she's acting out of ignorance, it doesn't play as tragic, but as cruel and selfish. Not the words that are supposed to describe this child of all children (there's also the matter of her rivalry with another hula student, which is certainly harsher than the equivalent moments in Lilo & Stitch, but at least it's within the ballpark of her established character).

All of this is, admittedly, tangential to the real thrust of the movie, which has little to do with conflicts or emotional registers at all. Frankly, Stitch Has a Glitch is just plain dull, not remotely offensive enough to even be tedious. Not much happens, and it happens to characters who don't feel quite right, and there's no reason to care about any of this except those reasons that you bring in with you. It's lazy, and while that word applies to just about every single DTV Disney sequel, it has never applied so thoroughly and aggressively as it does here.

At least Stitch Has a Glitch looks pretty good. Lilo & Stitch is one of the softest, most cartoon-like Disney animated features to begin with, and its style translates to the cheaper animation practiced by DisneyToon Studios far more readily than in, for example, the appallingly gross-looking Mulan II. The character animation isn't as plush and involving as in the first movie, certainly, and there's absolutely no upshot to the chintzy, scribbled backgrounds, which don't even think about competing with the beautiful watercolors in the first film.

But it's miles better than Stitch!, for starters, and as far as being a harmless cartoon made for home video, the clean lines and bright colors are quite sufficient to get the point across. Perhaps the characters aren't as expressive as they could and probably ought to be - certainly, the lack of blithe openness in Lilo's face does not help with the impression that she's being meaner here than in the first movie - and there's no moment as delicate as the beautiful shot in Stitch! of Lilo and Stitch pressing hands against opposite sides of a wall. But it's all a great deal easier on the eyes than many of the DisneyToon films attempting to marry a similarly pared-back lack of detailed animated acting with the more precise, realistically-built character designs of most Disney features. It's simple and straightforward, but the story it's attached to isn't especially taxing anyway, and the child-sized emotions of the narrative are just about the perfect for the way they've been visualised.

"Child-sized" is a good reminder. Lilo & Stitch, being as it is among the very cutest of all Disney movies (in this sequel, even the characters comment on Stitch's adorable design), and among the most intently free of any serious conflict or darkness, is really a children's movie, even more than most Disney pictures, particularly the ones made in the 21st Century. While I am not a child, and I enjoy that movie very much, that's pretty incidental to its successes, aesthetic or otherwise. The point being, anyway, Stitch Has a Glitch isn't looking to impress me or people like me, but the little children out in the world, and its lack of incident, it's lack of seriously grappling with the implications of its plot, and its lack of depth are all in service to that. All of which means that, even if it's effective children's entertainment, it misses by a large gulf being great children's entertainment, or even mostly appealing children's entertainment. But with little ambition comes little brilliance in the results, and Stitch Has a Glitch is, after all, the movie it wants to be, though it is plainly not the movie any halfway awake grownup viewer would want it to be.