The Iron Giant | Movies | Palo Alto Online |

Movie Review

The Iron Giant

The Iron Giant
A scene from "The Iron Giant"

Whole star Whole star Whole star
Rated PG for fantasy action and mild language. 1 hour, 26 minutes.
Publication date: Aug. 6, 1999
Review by Jim Shelby
Released: (1999)

One of the biggest sensations at the screening for this animated Warner Brothers picture was the preview for "Pokemon, the Movie." The hubbub lasted for a good two minutes as the tyke-filled theater burbled with intense anticipation of the kid-toy film phenomenon of the '90s. I felt distinctly out of the loop.

Despite the distraction, "Iron Giant" held its own. This lushly animated story of an enormous metal robot that crashes to Earth near a Maine seacoast town in 1957, where everyone is already "wigged out" (a needless anachronism) by the launch of the Soviets' Sputnik, is a classic story of a wise and compassionate child able to overcome society's prejudice and see the good within a stranger. It's also plenty of fun. The film cleverly targets both kids and their boomer parents: Folks will have fun with '50s references (e.g., a Maypo ad on TV) that the little ones will miss.

Hogarth, a rambunctious 10-year-old, keeps bugging his single waitress mom (voiced by Jennifer Anniston of "Friends") for permission to have a pet. He soon gets his wish when he saves the life of the huge tin man caught in the wires of a power station. His big new pal's appetite for scrap metal is insatiable, so Hogarth sets him up in the local junkyard run by Dean, the beatnik artist (Harry Connick Jr.), where he can eat his fill and not get noticed. Though the film can't quite decide if it's ripping off "E.T." or "King Kong" (Hogarth as a scrappy Fay Wray), the regrettable human urge toward destruction of what we don't understand is demonstrated in an entertaining and exciting way.

Cynics out there may find the movie gets on squishy ground when it deals with death. In spite of some philosophical musing from Hogarth, who says that though it's wrong to kill, death, when it's time, is not that bad, we get a vivid final scene in which the robot resurrects himself after his martyrdom by an atomic bomb. He's not only not dead, he's immortal! Unlike, say, "Bambi," where the mother is tragically felled by hunters but new life is also part of the kaleidoscope of existence, this story blithely suggests to children that death is just an illusion.

Existential quibbles aside, this is a handsome piece of engaging animation from a studio other than Disney. That in itself is worth a look. The kids will love it.

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