The Iron Giant
Directed by Brad Bird Voices by Vin Diesel, Eli Marienthal and Harry Connick Jr. **** (out of five)
In 1968 Ted Hughes, England's poet laureate (until his death in 1998), wrote a story called The Iron Man for his children to console them after the suicide of their mother, the poet Sylvia Plath. An unusual and affecting story, The Iron Man had a comforting message -- life goes on.
Through the efforts of rock star Pete Townsend and theatre director Des McAnuff, this story has been brought to the screen as an animated feature directed by The Simpsons veteran Brad Bird. In the process, Hughes' story has been transposed from England to Maine, set in the 1950s and re-titled, The Iron Giant. What remains of Hughes' original story is a relationship between a mechanical man and a little boy; what's been changed (with Hughes' blessing) broadens the story's appeal and delivers messages about accepting differences, understanding anger, and choosing life.
It's in post-Sputnik USA that young Hogarth Hughes (voice of Eli Marienthal) first encounters the Iron Giant (Vin Diesel). When his TV goes off one night, Hogarth discovers that the antenna is missing, and follows the giant's trail to the power plant where he saves the robot from electrocution after it chomps on some live wires. That makes the giant his friend forever. With the help of the local scrap metal dealer, a beatnik artist named Dean McCoppin (Harry Connick Jr.), the Iron Giant finds a safe feeding ground and Hogarth finds an ally to keep their metal friend from the government inspector Kent Mansley (Christopher McDonald). It's Dean, the beatnik artist, who inspires Hogarth to accept differences, and to protect the outcasts from the powerful. …