The Iron Giant (1999)

Directed by Brad Bird
Written by Tim McCanlies, based on a story by Brad Bird, which was based on the book by Ted Hughes
Starring Eli Marienthal, Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick, Jr., Christopher McDonald, Vin Diesel

My Advice: Matinee.

Hogarth (Marienthal) is your typical kid with a big imagination.  And who can blame him?  He's living in Maine in 1957, assailed by inklings of the Cold War--Sputnik above him and "duck and cover" civil defense films in the classroom.  One day he finds something even larger than his imagination--a giant iron robot (Diesel).  The two become friends of a sort, although Hogarth isn't sure what to do with his huge amigo, since bringing him into town will only spark what he calls the "screaming problem."  Meanwhile, a paranoid government agent (McDonald) is hot on the trail of the big guy, so Hogarth better come up with something quick.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am writing this review after this film became the critics' darling that no one went to go see.  So hear me now--this is probably the end of Warner Brothers' attempts to fight Lord Mouse once you couple this with the dismal showing of WB's The King and I. And I can't speak for the other entry, but this one was worthy.  The animation is much better than the trailer let on, and the voices were cleverly cast (It's always great to see, sorry hear, Connick working).  The story is quite amusing with little touches such as squirrels and laxatives playing to the immature delinquent in all of us.  It's also refreshing to see an animated film that recognizes you don't have to follow the Disney paradigm of doing things (i.e. no songs, no cute talking animals).  I pray to God DreamWorks is paying attention.

When the film is being smart with its little background touches, it's delightful.  A horror flick that Hogarth watches about a creeping brain is hilariously apt and any fan of those vintage B-movies will howl.  The myth of surviving a nuclear holocaust is brought up as well.  However, when the film trips it falls like the Giant does--BOOM.  The first snag is when Hogarth has to explain to the Giant about mortality and souls--it just drips sentimentality.  The second is when Hogarth explains to the Giant that "Guns kill."  While the statement is factually true, that guns can and do indeed kill people, the implication is that "All guns do is kill," which is patently false.  We might as well have Hogarth telling the Giant that "Guns kill.  So do swimming pools, cars, alcohol, and high places."  Thus when the Giant decides not to be a gun, I could only see him saying, "I am not a sled."  Same logic.  It's a shame that this crazed heavy-handed anti-gun dogma found its way into this film, because it was simply not necessary.  The original Ted Hughes book had a message of world peace without using a sledgehammer, so there were better ways of making the same point.

But don't let this stop you from seeing and enjoying the film, and please take your kids.  Just make sure you arm them with the knowledge that it is just a movie and it doesn't necessarily reflect reality.  I know you're all responsible parents out there and you do that with every film, right?  Just take them in the afternoon.

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