The Iron Giant – Size Matters week

In honor of the wonderful Valentine’s/Birthday/Father’s Day/Christmas present my wife gave me, I am featuring giant things this week. Today it is a giant robot. The Iron Giant is currently available on instant Netflix.

The Iron Giant

WATCH: The Iron Giant (1999) – Rated PG for fantasy action and mild language.

“In rustic 1957 Maine, 9-year-old Hogarth finds a colossal but disoriented robot (of unknown origin), and the two form a strong bond of friendship. Before long, however, a government agent is on their trail — and he’s intent on destroying the automaton. This beautifully rendered parable based on British poet Ted Hughes’ feted short story features the voices of Jennifer Aniston, Vin Diesel, Harry Connick Jr. and Cloris Leachman.”

“A peaceful stay at home kind of day in a town very much like your own but then, suddenly, without warning ATOMIC HOLOCAUST!” – Beginning of a duck and cover school film.

“This is espresso – it’s like coffeezilla.”

Director Brad Bird made this film after an eight year run as executive consultant on The Simpsons (among other things). He does an absolutely marvelous job here. Later he would go on to both write and direct The Incredibles and Ratatouille.

Bird’s most important accomplishment here is capturing a wonderful sense of nostalgia. Even though it’s for a different era (late 50s instead of 40s), the closest comparison for this film would be A Christmas Story. We have a lovable beatnik (shades of Maynard G. Krebs), a duck and cover school film, worry about Sputnik. The best one is a brief glimpse of a horror movie on TV (The Brain from Planet Arous).

The details are simply marvelous. The cars aren’t generic – there are representations of an Oldsmobile 98, Chevy Pickup, Chevy Fleetmaster and more. There is a scene echoing and lit like the classic Bambi. The headline in Dean’s newspaper is a double joke – not only does it foreshadow an event but it also echoes a scene in The Lady & The Tramp.

Bird also has a wonderful time with directorial flourishes not normally found in animated features. There is a wonderful scene where our government agent gets back in his car. The camera then pans over to reveal half the car is missing. A scene of Kent Mansley explaining things and pointing his finger in the air cuts to a scene of Hogarth in the same pose.

This is one of those, admittedly few, animated features that appeal just as much to adults as they do to children. Don’t be put off by the fact that this an animated movie. Like most good science fiction, this is a parable.

Vin Diesel (with some manipulation) provides a wonderful voice for the robot. Harry Connick Jr. is the voice of our beatnik, Dean McCoppin. Jennifer Aniston is our harried waitress mother, Annie Hughes. Even with all the big names, it is Eli Marienthal who has to carry the film as Hogarth Hughes and he does a very good job.

I highly recommend this classic science fiction story. Netflix is nice enough to present it not only in its original aspect ratio but also in HD.

People Watch: The marvelous character actor M. Emmet Walsh voices Earl Stutz.