The Iron Giant on the Big Screen This Weekend
When I first saw this film when it came out in 1999 I fell instantly in love with it and was certain that it was going to be a huge hit with a multitude of accolades and numerous awards. The accolades were abundant, but the audiences were not. For some unfathomable reason, ticket sales were low and the film quietly slipped out of the theaters. Many at the time placed the blame on Warner Bros. for their poor handling of the marketing, which seemed nearly nonexistent. My own efforts to spread the news by word of mouth had little to no effect, but now I have a second chance.
The Iron Giant is quiet possibly the most universally appealing animated film ever produced. First of all, it is not a musical. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but most adults do not look forward to sitting through a film with unctuously adorable animals that suddenly break out into song. Instead, this is purely a good story told through the use of animation, possibly because one of the lead characters is a massive iron giant who would have been impossible to create realistically by any other means.
The Iron Giant is set in the late 1950s in the fictional town of Rockwell, Maine, where Hogarth Hughes (voiced by Eli Marienthal) is a bright and adventurous young boy. An only child living with his single mom (voiced by Jennifer Aniston), Hogarth has an overactive imagination and spends a lot of his time playing out his fantasy life in the woods behind his home. During one of his adventures he ends up discovering a 50-foot-tall robot from outer space tangled up in some high-tension wires. Following the usual formula, the boy rescues and befriends the metal-munching, but lovable iron robot.
There is nothing unusual or surprising in the plot twists as the story develops. Yes, mom and Hogart's new adult friend (voiced by Harry Connick, Jr.) become interested in each other, yes there is a mean government man (voiced by Christopher McDonald) who just doesn’t understand, and yes, the military gets things horribly mixed up. But who cares? As presented by director Brad Bird (The Incredibles) all of these elements are presented in a cleaver, smart and intelligent manner, never demeaning itself or insulting the viewer by speaking down to them.
The Iron Giant is the perfect Sunday afternoon movie experience the whole family can enjoy. And how often does an opportunity like this come along? So, pack up the kids, pick up the grandparents and head for the comforts of an air-conditioned movie theater. It will be the best investment of your movie dollar this weekend, possibly all summer. With the additional voice talents of Vin Diesel (as the Giant!) and one of my all time favorite character actors, John Mahoney you're going to fall in love with feature animation films all over again.