Thursday, February 21, 2008

Best kids' movie in last decade?

Jeff's grandma just sent him a copy of The Iron Giant - along with a beautiful hand-knitted scarf.

I saw TIG when it first came out, before Jeff was born, and I've seen it a few times since. But unlike most of the other kids' movies I've had to watch a bazillion times (that's how kids are, when they like something they want to see it a lot), I just can't get tired of it.

The story is about Hogarth, the child of a waitress single mother in a small town in Maine during the height of the Cold War, who makes friends with a giant robot from space. Who the robot is or where he came from isn't gone into much. What's more important is who other people think the robot is. Hogarth has to hide his enormous friend from the suspicious world - especially Kent Mansley, an insanely paranoid government agent who makes General Jack D. Ripper look like a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Hogarth has the help of Dean, a beatnik junkyard owner who makes art out of his junk. The portrait of the period is just fantastic. Of course I wasn't actually born yet, so maybe someone who was alive then could contradict me. But the American Paranoid attitude never goes out of style, and the CW was just one of the more famous incarnations of the same attitude that's running our country today.

The movie has some great action scenes when the robot's weapon-like background reveals itself. But in the end the movie is about the struggle (both within the robot and within us) between the inclination to shoot first and ask questions later, and the much more difficult decision to try to accept what we don't understand. Especially for boys, it's got the perfect combination of cool action and the right message.

Whether you have kids or not, you absolutely have to see this. To make it even better, it might be one of the last great big-budget animation movies done with hand drawings instead of CGI. Check it out.

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