Animation is an incredibly tactical medium and genre for films that have always had the ability to hit audiences of all ages. It was when Brad Bird and Warner Brother Studios decided to bring to life a magical fairy tale of robot giants and the childlike wonders to a screen near you back in 1999. Today, we know Brad Bird as the director of what is still considered the best Mission Impossible film to date and has also given us one of the best Pixar films with the The Incredibles, but before his name rang in our ears, we were reminded that souls never die and we are who we choose to be…and we learned who Vin Diesel sort of was.
Throwing us into a Cold War era America rather than a war torn England like the original source material, we take in the hybrid animation style that boasts hand drawn characters and settings that later bring in some of the most visually striking dimension filled animation that still holds up today. As a mysterious metal monster falls from the sky into a small town in the state of Maine, we are brought to a young boy named Hogarth, whose lack of fear is substituted with imagination and adventure of a boy who sees things for what they truly are whether good or evil. It’s that temperament throughout the story that brings warmth to satire and satire to great narrative.
Over time, the best animated films have been the ones that are kid friendly, but never strictly for the kids. The jokes, the humor, the drama, and the points sprinkled through the film endure no matter what age you are and give new meanings to your own being as you and the film age on. Vin Diesel as the Giant is arguably his best role and that is not a joke. There is power in simplicity and a more emotional attachment to characters with less to say and that is what Vin Diesel brought to the Giant. Though he didn’t speak much, the Giant had all the lines we remember, and it goes back to subtly. Without spoiling the ending for the souls who haven’t seen this film, the Giant brings you life and takes it away like God himself. The emotional spectrum opens in a film like this because it flows organically and is thought out from beginning to end.
An overlooked detail to this film is it’s voice cast. We know Diesel is the Giant, but did you know Jennifer Aniston is Hogarth’s mom or that Harry Connick Jr. is the voice of Dean? Yeah, I know. These are the underrated voice performances of animated films in the last two decades and without them, the film loses “it”. Of course, when checking off boxes for this movie you are pretty much filled. From the crisp animation to the voice cast, there are also the key factors that make a great movie and that is clear direction as well as emotionally taxing conflict and villain of sorts, and you have to give credit to the script written by Tim McCanlies.
In the original fairy tale, the Giant eventually battles an alien, but instead, the alien is deleted and he goes up against one man’s stupidity and ignorance and one giant missile. It takes some serious confidence in your vision and story to have a robot not battle a giant alien and substitute it with something far more original. This becomes a film about a boy and his dog in a manner of speaking. The dog becomes a giant metal man and the boy stays the same. What happens in these sort of stories is what makes all great “a boy and his dog” style tales work: character growth and acceptance.
Guys, this is a film that should not only be atop your lists of best animated films, but one of the best films made in the last 25 years. We quote the film, we cry at the end, and we cherish it like Hogarth does the Giant, and that is never going to change. It’s a beautiful tale that will teach both kids and adults that taking a life is wrong, but it’s okay to die, and that you are who you choose to be and no predetermined destiny can take that from you.