Sunday, April 3, 2011

Netflix Pick of the month: IRON GIANT

As a kid I used to love animated movies. Of course, in those days that primarily meant Disney… with the occasional full-length Mr. Magoo. That all changed when I had kids. After THE LITTLE MERMAID seemed to revive the genre there was a glut of animated features and I schlepped my kids to see many a RAINBOW BRIGHT and LAST UNICORN. They better not say bad things about me to their therapists EVER!!

Now it takes Pixar, great reviews, or the assurance that Jerry Seinfeld will not be involved to get me in to see a ninety-minute cartoon.

There is one animated film I always heard was great but never got around to seeing. (Okay, I’ll be honest, I never made the effort.) Recently “Ken’s Damn Friend” was praising it, even offering to lend me the DVD. I noticed it was on HBO this week so I set my Tivo. All I can say is “Wow!”

If you haven’t seen THE IRON GIANT you’ve got to check it out. Released in 1999 by Warner Brothers, it was directed by Brad Bird (of THE INCREDIBLES and RATATOUILLE fame) and is as smart, funny, and poignant as his other brilliant features.

Set in 1957 at the height of the Cold War, paranoia, and bad black-and-white science fiction movie craze (scaring the shit out of kids for a total budget of $11.95 per film), THE IRON GIANT tells the deceptively simple story of a giant robot that lands on earth from outer space and is befriended by a little boy. It’s ET, meets SUPERMAN RETURNS meets THE TRANSFORMERS but without the treacle of the first, the Jesus theme of the second, and Michael Bay of the third. Along the way there are the usual great little Brad Bird attention-to-detail touches (like “Duck and Cover” films, the old Maypo cereal commercial, and the kid even looks like Howdy Doody).

You may be saying, “Well, if it’s so good why wasn’t it a big hit?” Because there’s something more frightening than Commies or aliens – the Warner Brothers marketing department. Instead of promoting this gem of a film, the WB marketing idiots put all their time, effort, and money into launching WILD WILD WEST (and we all know how terrific THAT film was).

THE IRON GIANT received a lot of awards, great reviews, even greater exit polls and quickly disappeared. Fortunately Brad Bird has been able to find other work.

IRON GIANT. It brings new meaning to “heavy metal”.

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