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The Iron Giant

THE IRON GIANT
Rated PG
Starring Jennifer Aniston, Eli Marienthal and Harry Connick Jr. (voices).

CineSight Rating *** 1/2

From the depths of space, a huge alien robot crash lands near the town of Rockwell, Maine. The year is 1957 and the United States is gripped by paranioa; fear of atomic war, fear of Sputnik and anything foreign.

Young Hogarth Hughes (Marienthal) rescues and befriends the iron giant in the forest outside of town. He knows people would be afraid of his new friend, but how do you hide a 50-foot robot? In addition, the giant is like a young child - a huge, hungry, metal-chomping kid. Hogarth teaches the giant to speak, and sets about finding food. Although managing to keep the robot a secret from his mom (Aniston), Hogarth confides in the town's beatnik junkyard owner, Dean McCoppen (Connick). They hide the giant amongst the scrap metal, which he happily snacks on as he reads comic books.

However, government agent Kent Manley (Christopher McDonald) shows up in town. He's investigating UFO reports in the area, and begins to suspect Hogarth. Manley is very serious about his job, and very serious about destroying anything that might pose a threat to national security - including the iron giant. He tracks down the invader to McCoppen's scrapyard, and calls in the military.

As the showdown begins, they discover that when aroused, the robot becomes a weapon more deadly than anything known on earth. But this is simply a defense mechanism against the army's attacks. In desperation, Manley orders a nuclear strike. However, he doesn't anticipate the reaction of the iron giant - a weapon with a soul.

THE IRON GIANT is an animation masterpiece. Far from being an insignificant kiddie movie, this is a film with heart and a conscience that doesn't play down to its audience. The intelligent screenplay is adapted from Ted Hughes' book "The Iron Man". The top-notch animation, reminiscent of Warner Bros. best Looney Tunes style, is brilliantly directed by Brad Bird. It is an exciting adventure, which also deals with the issues of paranoia and fear of what we don't understand - a timely subject in a shrinking world where cultures clash every day.

Although overlooked at the box office this Summer, I hope THE IRON GIANT will gain a much wider following on video. It's certainly on my list!