It’s not often I find myself smiling when a kid is crying, but that’s what I was doing in a teeny movie theater in Los Angeles circa 1999. My buddy Will and I were sitting two rows behind a couple of ten year old boys who erupted in sobs when the robot exploded. I had been that ten year old myself, and now as grown up I couldn’t help but be touched by their emotion. I was overwhelmed myself, and after the film, Will and I marched right down to the Warner Bros. store and bought ourselves the toy of that very robot, "The Iron Giant."
"The Iron Giant" is known in the geek world as the movie that "should have." It should have broken box office records, it should have won Academy Awards (had they had Oscars for animation then), and every child should have seen it. None of these things happened, despite a stellar cast including Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick, Jr. and Vin Diesel -- and the state of the art use of computer animation in a traditional animated film. But first-time director Brad Bird had something special, and would go on to do "The Incredibles," "Ratatouille," and "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol," one of which did win an Academy Award (psst: it was the one with the rat).
I’ve long been a proponent of "The Iron Giant." When I wasa substitute middle school teacher, I always kept a copy with me in case there was no lesson plan and was always stunned how the kids took to it. The story of Hogarth and a giant robot who fell from space, and their subsequent adventure concealing its existence from the government in 1950s, captured their imaginations. Its themes of "war is bad," "guns are bad," and "you have the power to be anything you want" touched these kids. I don’t know how many times I showed the film, but the reaction was always the same: joy, sadness, elation, and joy.
If you haven’t experienced "The Iron Giant," run, do not walk, to your nearest electronic device and purchase it immediately. You shall not be disappointed. Or, if you’re like me, flip through the channels and be pleasantly surprised someone in the cable world knows a masterpiece when they see it. You’ll feel the same way, I promise!
You can watch Steven Smith every Sunday -- and right now! -- on his new MTV Geek program Cooking With Thrones .