I have to confess: about half of my favourite movies (and books, too) were made for children. Sometimes children’s stories have a lot more to say about life–and say it better–than the most gritty, “realistic” adult stories. One of the best examples I know of this principle is:
The Iron Giant
Directed by: Brad Bird
Starring: Vin Diesel, Harry Connick Jr., Eli Marienthal
It’s 1957 in the small town of Rockwell, Maine. Nine-year-old Hogarth Hughes goes into the woods to investigate a strange noise and ends up coming home with an unusual pet: a fifty-foot robot that fell from the sky. Despite his awesome appearance, the Giant is actually very gentle and naive, and Hogarth becomes his mentor as he struggles to figure out life on planet Earth. But a huge metal man from outer space is kind of hard to hide, especially when a paranoid government agent becomes determined to get rid of him.
“You are who you choose to be.”
Why I Love It:
This is an absolutely beautiful movie. It sucked me in immediately with the unique animation and the humour, and it just kept getting better. Brad Bird, who directed two of my other favourite animated movies (The Incredibles and Ratatouille), also does a great job re-creating the clothes, music, pop culture, and anxieties of the time period. For example, there’s one funny scene where Hogarth and his classmates have to watch a horribly cheesy video about what to do in the event of a nuclear fallout–complete with an annoying “duck and cover” jingle.
Actually, there are a lot of funny moments. A lot of cute ones, too, like when Hogarth introduces the Giant to his hero, Superman, or when the Giant shows a talent for avant-garde scrap metal sculpture. All the characters are instantly endearing–except for Kent Mansley, the villain, of course. But for all the cuteness and laughs, this is still a pretty emotionally traumatizing movie. The innocent, lovable Giant is always in danger, not only of being destroyed by the army, but also of losing his innocence and becoming a monster. And if the ending doesn’t make you want to bawl your eyes out, you have a heart of stone.
Unlike Inception, The Iron Giant has a very simple plot, but it deals with some awfully complicated real-life issues. Death, for example. Xenophobia and fear of the unknown. The evils of war and the power of self-sacrificing love. Just for starters. More importantly, it deals with these things in a thoughtful, understated, and ultimately hopeful way. Who says cartoons are just for kids? I’d watch this one over and over.