The Iron Giant Movie Review

The great thing about Warner Bros. animated features is that they haven't lost touch with their cartoony roots.

The studio's recent releases in the hand-drawn genre, like "Cats Don't Dance" and "Quest for Camelot," have celebrated the simpler, wide-eyed aspects of the art form while Disney and its more direct competitors (Fox's "Anastasia," for instance) edge toward life-like realism.

But until now Warner's hasn't had a serious contender in the animation wars.

Enter "The Iron Giant," the most inventive, captivating and cleverly drawn, the most extraordinary -- the coolest -- Hollywood cartoon since the genre was revived 10 years ago.

The story of a metal-munching, 100-foot robot that falls to Earth during the fearful 1950s and finds himself hunted by a pointy-jawed, paranoid, paranormal investigator in the employ of the War Department, this is the best kind of kids' movie -- a simple morality tale set against a fun, exciting sci-fi adventure.

The Giant -- a fantastically rendered, post-war comic book amalgam of gears and armor plating -- is something of an innocent, having lost his memory in his crash-landing off the coast of Maine. Confused and hungry, he tries to snack on the steel in a power station and is saved from electrocution by a boy named Hogarth who hides the mighty metal man at a local scrap yard ("Wow! My own giant robot!") and spends his afternoons teaching him the finer points of humanity.

While it may not be subtle with the social message fodder ("Guns kill," Hogarth explains point-blank), "The Iron Giant" is so joyfully entertaining, visually stylish, intelligent and even poignant, that a little heavy-handedness can be forgiven as a friendship forms between Hogarth and the Giant, who follows him around like a treetop-tall lost puppy.

Adapted (from Ted Hughes' bedtime story) and directed by Brad Bird, who was working with Disney animators as early as age 14, the story spoofs the Red scare culture of America in the 1950s, even offering up a mock Civil Defense film at Hogarth's school, showing kids hiding under desks and surviving a nuclear holocaust with chipper little smiles on their faces.

This sense of humor, of course, extends to laughs that will mean a lot more to kids as well. When the hawkish, Ward Cleaver-looking government man tries to buddy up to Hogarth in a soda shop (calling him "sport," "buckaroo," "tiger," "champ," "slugger," etc.), hoping to be lead to the Giant, the boy outsmarts him by sprinkling chocolate laxative on the man's sundae. He spends the next reel making screwed-up faces and desperately seeking restrooms.

Even funnier: Hogarth takes the Giant swimming and teaches him to do a cannonball, creating a colossal wall of water that washes fish and forest animals across the screen.

The main thrust of the movie is a great adventure, and there's no mistaking that "The Iron Giant" is boys' fare. There are no handsome princes here. But even so, it has emotional moments that sneak up on you, especially toward the end when the Giant's dormant defensive systems kick in and he transforms into a "War of the Worlds"-inspired, walking arsenal. That's when Hogarth risks his life to remind the metal monster that he doesn't have to be a gun -- he is what he chooses to be.

The last act of "The Iron Giant" comes on a bit abruptly and feels somewhat rushed and gimmicky -- and although it eventually arrives at a feel-good ending (by way of a wonderful homage to Superman), it taps some seriously stressful, heartbreaking scenes as the robot is under attack.

But even if they cry a tad, little kids will adore every moment of "The Iron Giant." So will big kids, like me. I've already seen it twice.

If Warners can continue to produce animated features this handsome and memorable without losing their soul to the ogre of cartoon realism, they may finally be the studio that gives Disney a run for its money.


Comments

The Iron Giant Rating

" Good "

Rating: PG, Friday, August 6, 1999

Editors Recommendations

MS MR Admit They're 'Natural Performers' As They Enjoy 2014's Festival Season

Some bands are worth getting excited about and, with the festival season well under way...

MS MR Admit They're 'Natural Performers' As They Enjoy 2014's Festival Season

Miley Cyrus Forced To Cancel More 'Bangerz' Tour Dates As She Remains Hospitalized

Miley Cyrus is still receiving hospital treatment for "severe allergic reaction...

Miley Cyrus Forced To Cancel More 'Bangerz' Tour Dates As She Remains Hospitalized

Peaches Geldof Will Be Laid To Rest In Same Church As Late Mother

Peaches Geldof, who suddenly died at the beginning of this month (April 7th)...

Peaches Geldof Will Be Laid To Rest In Same Church As Late Mother

Gwen Stefani To Step In For Christina Aguilera On "The Voice"

We never would have pegged Gwen Stefani as the reality talent panelist type...

Gwen Stefani To Step In For Christina Aguilera On

Bryan Singer Announces Alibi, But It Won't Help "X-Men" Marketing

As X-Men director Bryan Singer is gearing up for his defense case, which he will have...

Bryan Singer Announces Alibi, But It Won't Help

Prince To Release New Album With New Warner Bros. Records Partnership

Prince and Warner Bros, Records seem to have put their differences aside...

Prince To Release New Album With New Warner Bros. Records Partnership

Lindsay Lohan's Ex List Was Actually A Step In Her Recovery

Lindsay Lohan really did write down her now infamous list of lovers, which has been...

Lindsay Lohan's Ex List Was Actually A Step In Her Recovery

'Mrs. Doubtfire' Cast Reluctant For Sequel: A Cash Cow For Robin Williams?

The news that a Mrs. Doubtfire sequel is definitely in the works 21 years after the 1993...

'Mrs. Doubtfire' Cast Reluctant For Sequel: A Cash Cow For Robin Williams?

Music Fans Crown Ozzy Osbourne And Lady Gaga "Hardest Artists To Understand"

Music fans have named Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus and Rihanna in their top ten hardest...

Music Fans Crown Ozzy Osbourne And Lady Gaga


More recommendations