The Iron Giant
Directed by Brad Bird
Animated, featuring the voice talents of: Jennifer Anniston, Harry Connick, Jr., Vin Diesel, Eli Marienthal, and one kick-ass robot.
At first glance, you might be tempted to write this off as some ineffectual piece of non-Disney animation. But the touching story of a Boy and His Robot offers something for everyone, action, comedy and yes, even a little romance.
Set in a small Maine sea-town in 1957, the Iron Giant has the misfortune to crash to Earth in the midst of Cold War paranoia. Saved from being fried on electrical lines by the irrepressible Hogarth Hughes, a red-haired, freckled scrap of mischief, the Robot is quickly befriended by Hogarth, who (for the most part) successfully hides the Robot from his mother. In his quest to keep the Robot hidden, Hogarth enlists the help of Dean, the town’s junk dealer/artist/beatnik/hottie. Everything would be just swell, however the US. Government is tipped off to a UFO in the area and decides to investigate. The agent they send is the subtly slimy Kent Mansley, who attempts to coerce Hogarth (by various means, everything from ice cream sundaes to threatening to separate Hogarth from his mother) into revealing information about the Robot’s whereabouts. Valiantly, Hogarth tries to save his colossal friend; however, the Robot’s location is discovered and plans are set to destroy it. The story is filled with gentle sentimentality and is played nicely against some truly comedic scenes (Dean taking Hogarth and the Robot “swimming” is just classic.)
Young Eli Marienthal does an excellent job providing the voice of the film’s young protagonist, Hogarth, while Jennifer Anniston admirably voices Annie, Hogarth’s single mother. Harry Connick, Jr. channels Dean, and Vin Diesel’s rumbling tones are digitally processed to vocalize the Giant itself. Director Brad Bird (who has also worked on The Simpsons and King of the Hill ) skillfully blends modern animation with a crisp, uncluttered style reminiscent of the classic ’40s Superman cartoons, with lovely, clean lines and gorgeous color.
The story is well-crafted and satisfying (with a couple of treats for comic geeks,) and already spawning some neat toys, from an Iron Giant “beanie” to a towering 20 inch toy robot that comes complete with metal items for it to “eat.” It really doesn’t get any better than this.