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(1999) (voices of Eli Marienthal, Christopher McDonald) (PG)

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Animated Action/Adventure: A young boy tries to hide and protect a fifty-foot tall, extraterrestrial robot from both his small town neighbors and the U.S. military that will certainly try to destroy him.
It's October 1957, and in the small town of Rockwell, Maine, Hogarth Hughes (voice of ELI MARIENTHAL) is a normal nine-year-old kid whose preoccupation with getting a pet is driving his single, waitress mom, Annie (voice of JENNIFER ANISTON), a bit crazy.

Hogarth's attention immediately changes, however, upon hearing what initially sounds like a typical fisherman's tale, although this time it's about encountering a gigantic metal man who fell from the sky. Although no one believes the old man, Hogarth soon does, especially after he has an encounter with the fifty-foot tall robot.

While he's initially frightened of the metal craving robot, Hogarth soon learns that the Iron Giant (voice of VIN DIESEL) is a friendly and inquisitive being who's ready to learn from his diminutive friend. As such, Hogarth is happy to have a new pal, but soon realizes he faces several problems.

Although he solves one by finding a place for him to hide and feast in a local junkyard run by a friendly beatnik, Dean McCoppen (voice of HARRY CONNICK, JR.), who uses the scrap metal to make modern art, Hogarth's biggest threat comes in the form of government agent Kent Mansley (voice of CHRISTOPHER McDONALD) who's responded to the fisherman's earlier report.

With Mansley determined to verify the Giant's existence and appease his boss, General Rogard (voice of JOHN MAHONEY), Hogarth must do what he can to protect his new friend whose defensive weaponry is sure to become active should the military arrive and take aggressive action against him.

With the animation obviously attracting younger kids and the sci-fi/action & adventure elements drawing the slightly older crowd, many kids may want to see this film.
For fantasy action and mild language.
  • While it's debatable whether kids view animated characters as role models, here's a quick look at the major characters.
  • HOGARTH HUGHES is a typical, inquisitive nine-year-old boy who tries to keep the existence of his new friend secret, for fear of harm coming to him. Along the way he shows bravery and confidence in helping his friend, although he keeps the robot and his actions hidden from his mother.
  • ANNIE is his single mom who's concerned about her son's well-being.
  • THE IRON GIANT is an inquisitive extraterrestrial robot who only becomes violent when threatened by others (when he then uses deadly force to defend himself).
  • DEAN plays Hogarth's older, beatnik friend who helps hide the robot from everyone.
  • KENT MANSLEY plays a sneaky and somewhat condescending government agent who will do anything it takes to find and then destroy the robot, no matter what the related costs.


    OUR TAKE: 7.5 out of 10
    Despite dominating the animated short genre for many decades, the recent full length efforts from the studio best known for Bugs, Daffy, Porky and their pals have been neither successful nor particularly satisfactory. With subpar animation and the inability to fully engage their target audience, both "Quest For Camelot" and the animated remake of "The King and I," were critical, artistic and box office disappointments.

    Although the former was Warner Bros. first full length animated attempt after the success of the hybrid "Space Jam," and the latter was only distributed by them (and made by another studio), both efforts raised serious doubts about whether Warner could seriously compete with the likes of Disney in this realm.

    Fortunately, we're happy to report that the third time is the charm for the WB and their release of "The Iron Giant." Based on the children's book, "The Iron Man," by British author Ted Hughes (and renamed "The Iron Giant" for U.S. release), this rousing piece of kid-oriented escapism might not match Disney's greatest or even recent releases in overall visual quality. Some may also even complain that the story is too predictably simple or that it gets a bit too hokey during its somewhat preachy third act.

    While there's some merit to those arguments from a jaded adult perspective, for most everyone else the film offers a fun, entertaining and occasionally heartfelt, eighty-some minute diversion from the trials and tribulations of being a kid. For that matter, that also applies if you're an adult with some kid still left in you -- and as such, the picture should please audiences of all ages.

    Effectively mixing several volatile elements from the late 1950s -- most notably the paranoia inspired by Sputnik, the nuclear age and an increase in "it came from outer space" worries -- the film offers a fun look at what now's considered a quaint time that few who didn't live through the period believe could ever have really existed.

    Well, it did, and the film offers some fun moments concerning such matters including an amusing sendup of the old "duck and cover" training films that were once obligatory viewing in schools. While it's surprising and just a little disappointing that more similar moments aren't present -- especially considering that director Brad Bird comes from the TV shows "The Simpsons" and "King of the Hill" -- the filmmakers, including screenwriter Tim McCanlies (who directed "Dancer, Texas Pop. 81") seem more intent on telling an old-fashioned type story than a satirical look at the era.

    In fact, they've mixed elements from stories and films that have delighted audiences for generations. There's the "Lassie" element of a boy and his dog -- er -- robot where the latter becomes his faithful companion and best friend. That's then mixed in with the old King Kong plot (that similarly inspired the "military must kill the beast" plots of all those 1950s monster movies) as well as an obvious homage to the sci-fi classic, "The Day the Earth Stood Still" with its large robot, Gort, and a similar anti-violence message.

    Some may also compare this picture to 1998's "Star Kid" and its somewhat similar "boy befriends and teaches a robot from outer space" plot (possibly inspired by this film's source), but this movie is clearly a great deal better. Not only does it avoid the standard element of the boy being in trouble and his new, bulky friend taking care of such matters, but it puts some heart and soul into the proceedings that were all too obviously missing from that live-action cousin.

    It's also easier to believe and thus be swept away into the proceedings since it takes place in an animated world where anything is possible and far easier to accept then in the "real" world. As such, many are probably curious about how the animation stacks up against that offered by Disney. Although it's not as good as what the Big Mouse has recently delivered, the animators here took a bit of a different approach in how the film would look, and thus straightforward comparisons are somewhat unfair.

    While there's the standard mix of hand-drawn and computer generated animation, a great deal of the film harkens back to the look and feel of the visually distinctive Warner Bros. shorts from the 1950's. Of course, that's appropriate since the story is set in that error, but the visual style gives the film a fun, retro-hip look that sets it apart from other recent entries in the genre.

    Although the animation is occasionally at times a bit rough and the characters don't always have that "realistic" look to them, the overall impression one gets from watching the film is that it looks quite good. For an animated flick, it also has some of the best sound I've ever heard in a "cartoon," and the multitude of aural effects, mixed with a fun 1950s rock n' roll soundtrack, are both realistic and quite effective.

    It's the general story, however, and the way in which it involves the characters that makes the film so much fun. While there's nothing particularly novel about the plot or any of the characters that appear in it (even the voicing -- while good -- doesn't particularly stand out, but instead seems quite natural sounding), Bird has nicely assembled all of the necessary elements into an audience- pleasing concoction. The result more than satisfactorily keeps things moving along at an always enjoyable and entertaining pace, although little of it will surprise viewers over the age of ten.

    Nonetheless, the old-fashioned charm and solid storytelling is what makes it work. While the kids will enjoy some fun set pieces such as Hogarth having to deal with a detached, but very alive robot hand in his house that's the size of a Saint Bernard and moving around like a giant spider, as well as a fun, "Goofy at the beach" style tidal wave sequence, adults will similarly enjoy the return to a more quaint period when young boys were intrigued by their fertile imagination instead of video games or the Internet.

    Simply put, "The Iron Giant" is a fun and engaging family film that should entertain adults as much as kids, the latter of whom will probably turn this into a hit, whether in theaters or later on video. As such, we give the film a 7.5 out of 10.

    The following is a brief summary of the content found in this PG-rated film. As in many animated films aimed toward kids, this one contains suspenseful or action-related scenes that may be unsettling and/or downright frightening to some younger viewers (all dependent, of course, on a child's age, maturity level and tolerance for such material).

    Directly related to that is some action-related violence as the Giant tries to defend himself from the Army and the many weapons they use against him. Some mild profanity is present (hells & damns, etc...) as are brief instances of smoking (a pipe) and drinking.

    Beyond that, some obligatory bad attitudes and a scene where our child hero "spikes" an adult's sundae with laxative crumbs (to keep him "busy"), the rest of the film is void of any other major objectionable content. Since the picture is aimed at kids, however, you may want to take a closer look at the listed content should you still be concerned about its appropriateness for them or anyone else in your home.

  • Some locals attribute a fisherman's story about the giant to "either whiskey or beer."
  • On a movie playing on TV, a scientist asks a woman if she wants a nightcap.
  • An army general has a drink.
  • On a movie playing on TV, we see a disembodied, but not bloody brain.
  • Hogarth briefly has a tiny bit of cartoon blood run from his nose after he's slightly injured.
  • A bit of scatological humor occurs in several scenes. In one, Annie and Mansley hear Hogarth straining in the bathroom (but he's really trying to push one of the Giant's detached hands out the window) that causes Mansley to state "that's why it's important to really chew your food." Once Hogarth succeeds, he then quickly drops his pants and sits on the toilet so that everything will look "natural" when his mom opens the door. Later, and trying to give Mansley the slip, Hogarth gives him a chocolate flavored laxative that sends the agent running to the bathroom after some brief intestinal sounds. Later, we see him standing up after apparently going in the woods.
  • Mansley is a smarmy government agent who makes fun of Hogarth's name and endangers many lives in his quest to destroy the robot.
  • A local kid calls Hogarth a "Poindexter."
  • Some may see Hogarth as having some of both for not telling his mother about the Giant.
  • The military tries to destroy/kill the Giant.
  • Depending on a child's age, maturity level and tolerance for such material, the following scenes may or may not be unsettling and/or frightening to them.
  • The Iron Giant's initial appearances, with his towering height, glowing eyes and presumed (to kids) menacing demeanor, may be unsettling or downright scary to some kids.
  • A nighttime scene features a fishing boat tossed about by a storm with lighting, thunder and high seas, that's then followed by the first and seemingly menacing appearance of the Giant. The lone fisherman is then washed overboard into the turbulent sea (but survives).
  • Hogarth watches an old sci-fi/horror film on TV that (along with its suspenseful music) may be a bit scary for kids (especially when a disembodied brain begins crawling across the floor -- although it, like the rest of the film, is all animated).
  • As that scary music continues to play, Hogarth hears something either upstairs or on the roof and slowly goes to find the source of the noise. Later, Hogarth slowly makes his way through a darkened forest (with his flashlight) and follows the destructive path of something obviously quite large.
  • Hogarth then encounters the Giant and with suspenseful music playing, tries to run away from him as the Giant follows (with Hogarth thinking the Giant's going to hurt/kill him).
  • The sight of the Giant being shocked by an electrical substation and adjoining power lines (along with his "screams") may be unsettling to some kids as might the scene moments later when several towers fall and nearly hit Hogarth.
  • There's yet another instance of the boy running for his life from the robot (but he then learns that the giant isn't trying to hurt him and they're friends from that point on).
  • After he's torn up a railroad track, the Giant quickly tries to put it together before a train reaches him. He is then struck by the approaching train that severs several of its body parts (but they then reassemble themselves).
  • We see that some hunters have just shot a deer that Hogarth and the Giant have just met. As such, the Giant is quite upset about the dead deer (and some kids may be as well).
  • Mansley is somewhat menacing toward Hogarth trying to get information from him and makes some veiled threats toward his mom and/or taking him away from her.
  • Some kids fall through a railing and hang from a tall building as everyone watches in terror (the Giant catches them as they fall).
  • The entire ending sequence where the Giant battles the Army men who have opened fire on him, as well as the thought and sight of a quickly approaching nuclear missile and finally a moment where Hogarth appears to be dead (he's not) may be suspenseful and/or frightening to some kids.
  • Toy sci-fi gun: Carried by Hogarth at various times.
  • BB Gun: Carried by Hogarth while searching for the Giant.
  • Bombs/Nuclear bombs: Seen in an old "duck and cover" film at Hogarth's school.
  • Pistols: Fired by cowboys on an old Western playing on TV.
  • Rifles: Used by some hunters to shoot a deer (heard, but not seen, although we do see the dead deer).
  • Handguns/Rifles/Machine guns/Bazookas/Tanks/Fighter jets/Battleships/Nuclear missile: Used by the army to attack the Giant.
  • Phrases: "Poindexter," "Jeez," "Nutty" (crazy), "Dork," "Creeps," "You just blew (substitute any word here) out your butt," "Shut up," "Idiot" and "Screw" (nonsexual).
  • Hogarth climbs out onto a tree and then onto his roof to investigate some odd noises he heard up there.
  • After Hogarth drinks some espresso, the caffeine has him quite hyper and talking a mile a minute (intended to get laughs that may cause kids to want some for the same effect).
  • Trying to lose Mansley who won't leave his side, Hogarth sprinkles some chocolate-flavored laxative on the agent's sundae that soon sends Mansley running for the bathroom.
  • None.
  • An extreme amount of dramatically suspenseful occurs during the film.
  • None.
  • At least 3 hells, 1 damn, 2 uses of "Oh my God" and 1 use each of "Oh Lord," "God," "My God" and "Sweet Mother of Jesus" as exclamations.
  • None.
  • Mansley smokes or carries a pipe several times during the film.
  • Although it's never really addressed nor explained, Hogarth's father is nowhere to be found in this film.
  • What life was like in 1957 and the significance of Sputnik and the "duck and cover" drills kids once had to practice.
  • There's a scene where the Giant asks Hogarth if the boy will die like a now lifeless deer and whether he'll die himself (Hogarth says yes for the former but is unsure of the latter).
  • The fact that the Giant is essentially a large weapon that learns what it's like to be "alive" and that it's wrong to kill.
  • A boat crashes into the Giant during a storm at sea and sinks.
  • A squirrel's race through a cafe results in some broken plates, etc...
  • We see all sorts of unintentional violence the Iron Giant has caused simply due to his size (broken trees, fences, etc...) as well as his hunger for metal (half-bitten cars, he also tears down part of a power station).
  • The Giant gets shocked by coming into contact with an electrical substation and adjacent power lines.
  • Running from the giant, Hogarth smacks his head into a tree, resulting in a tiny bit of bloody nose.
  • The Giant tears up a railroad track for a meal and is then struck by an approaching train that severs several of its body parts (but they then reassemble themselves).
  • Trying to distract his mom, Hogarth throws a coin into the kitchen that accidently knocks a small cabinet from the wall, sending it crashing to the floor.
  • Annie quickly closes a door, accidently catching Mansley's head in it.
  • We see that some hunters have just shot a deer that Hogarth and the Giant have just met (we only hear the shot and then see the lifeless deer).
  • Trying to get information from him, Mansley pushes Hogarth into a chair and then firmly grabs him by his face. He then uses ether (or something similar) on a rag to render Hogarth unconscious.
  • In a subconscious defensive move, the Giant fires electrical blasts from his eyes at Hogarth after the boy jokingly aims a fake sci-fi gun at him.
  • Not looking where he's driving, Mansley crashes his car into an Army truck causing the one behind him to crash into his car.
  • The Army opens fire on the Giant, shooting bazookas and machine guns at him. Tanks then also fire at him (and destroy a water tower). Jet fighters then shoot at the Giant and he eventually crashes to the ground. The Giant then returns fire at the military men, destroying several vehicles. Battleships then fire at the Giant and many things are blown up.
  • A huge nuclear explosion in outer space seemingly destroys the Giant (but we later see a happy ending).

  • Reviewed July 12, 1999 / Posted August 6, 1999

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