This gentle reworking of Ted Hughes's 1968 novella was the unseen gem of 1999. Hogarth, a young boy who lives in the Maine woods during the cold war, befriends a giant robot. As with ET, the iron giant is a misunderstood outsider who becomes a child's best friend and Hogarth does his best to hide the massive figure from his mom (voiced by Jennifer Aniston) and the local scrap-yard beatnik (Harry Connick Jr.). Soon the suspicions of neighbours and a government agent (Christopher McDonald) spell trouble.
With no songs, no sidekicks and no cheap ending, "The Iron Giant" is a refreshing change--like an off-Broadway production compared to the glitz of Disney's annual animated extravaganzas. Director Brad Bird may have "Family Dog" and "The Simpsons" to his credit but this film doesn't have that brand of scatological humour. As with the best family entertainment, there are gags that adults will howl at while the kids are watching something else (see Bird's interpretation of cold war propaganda). And the star is one cool piece of animated magic. Voiced by Vin Diesel ("Saving Private Ryan"'s hulking Private Caparzo) and filled with more gadgets than a Swiss army knife, the giant is a grand thing to behold. And like another famous cinema tin man, our hero--and the movie--has heart. Superb entertainment for ages 5 and up. "--Doug Thomas"