(I’m the resident film reviewer at my job’s monthly newsletter. Here’s my latest review for the month of January.)
I’ll admit that I’ve been slacking lately in my movie-watching experiences and have neglected films of a certain major target audience: family. I went through a list of recent movies I’ve watched and came up pretty short on movies worth writing about that fits in that genre. So I had to dig in my own movie collection to see what might fit the family flick group besides any and ever Pixar movie to date.
Actually, I didn’t stray too far from Pixar. Master storyteller Brad Bird gave us what I believe is an often overlooked and under appreciated gem of a tradition animated feature called The Iron Giant.
Before I jump into that movie, Brad Bird is the guy who brought us the Pixar hits The Incredibles and Ratatouille. Unfortunately, I can’t watch The Incredibles for a couple years due to my lovely niece and her fondness of the repeat button. Fortunately, however, I don’t remember the dialogues verbatim anymore, so there’s some progress. But no disrespect to these movies whatsoever. They appeal to kids and adults alike. These are movies where kids are welcomed and encouraged to view with you, but not necessary. And at the same time, parents can rest assured letting their kids be merry and dandy watching it on their own over and over again. But hey, it’s definitely important to watch what your children watch, even though there are some movies (and TV shows) that require another stimulant of some kind just to keep you from drifting off into madness. I just want to clarify and not mislead anyone into mistaking “family movie” with “children’s movie.” Believe you me (what does that mean, anyway?), there is a difference. The Iron Giant is a family movie. Humans and robots of all ages are allowed to enjoy.
I saw the movie for the first time as teenager. A cool movie about a boy and his giant robot romping around the woods. I got the point of the story, I laughed, got tearful around the end, it entertained me overall, but that was about it.
Then I got older, and thanks to a suggestion (and great review from famed storyboard artist, Karen Lloyd), I watched it again. I missed a lot of the subtle humor and subtexts that adults tend to pick up but are missed by kids. It’s not their fault, it’s intended to be that way. Some good “kids shows” are designed that way, too. Shows like Animaniacs and Sponge Bob were and are well aware of its adult fans, and throw in things for them to appreciate. That’s why they make sleepware for grown men with Sponge Bob on them. I don’t advise going out in public with them, but that’s your choice. But these storytellers want adults to be entertained too. And I forgot to mention, for an animated movie around the 90’s, I’m so happy there were no big song and dance numbers involved. Disney may be the only animated studio to pull this off effectively in their own movies, but I know that’s a turn-off for many adults including myself.
Not only did I pick up on the subtle humor in The Iron Giant, but the plot made more sense. Not that there was a deep analytical study or anything. The story takes place during the tense times of the Cold War. I wasn’t savvy to what all of that was about at a mere 13 years of age. So the paranoia these characters were feeling was lost on me, but at the time, I understood enough to know that the government had the wrong idea.
Also impressive to me at an older age: Vin Diesel. Most of the time, to me anyway, he seems like a laughable actor. But I won’t lie, I like a few of his movies despite the flaws. But his role in this movie voicing this innocent man of metal just seemed to fit so perfectly. I won’t say Oscar-worthy, but it’s definitely worth mentioning. The giant doesn’t talk much, but when he does, it’s fitting.
Overall, this is a good movie to show next time you’re entertaining guests, especially with kids. It’s probably not the #1 movie for your next gathering, even if they are all mature adults. But don’t let this “cartoon movie” go unwatched even if it’s just a movie for two.