The Iron Giant (1999) / Animation-Sci Fi
MPAA Rated: PG for fantasy action and mild language
Running Time: 86 min.
Cast (voices): Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick Jr., Eli Marienthal, Vin Diesel
Director: Brad Bird
Screenplay: Ted McCanlies (based on the book by Ted Hughes)
Review published January 31, 2000
A giant robot (voiced by Vin Diesel, Saving Private Ryan) falls to Earth from outer space and startles the people of a small Maine town called Rockwell in 1957. A young boy (Marienthal, American Pie) encounters the gigantic machine and befriends it, but a government agent investigating the case suspects the existence of it and views it as a dangerous threat that must be stopped at any cost.
Not the most original film to come down the pike, as shades of E.T. emerge, but it's based on a story from the late 50s so let's give it a little credit here. The strength of the film comes not from the plot, but the well-written and inspired characterizations that lead to the stirring and emotional finale. Not only is the story heartwarming and effectively compelling, but it's also quite funny with quite a number of "in-jokes" that will please adults while the children are drawn into the giant robot and his young companion's plight.
The animation and sound is excellent, with the casting of the voices spot on. The character of the young boy named Hogarth does suffer from a bit of the Annoying Kid disease that many Hollywood productions are riddles with, but the story is larger than him. There is a moral core to the story, that of loyalty and sacrifice, of how violence breeds violence, and of the evils of guns. Despite the derivative plot, the writing and characters still breathe life into an oft told story and make it seem new again.
©2000 Vince Leo