After a disappointing first-run, Brad Bird’s debut animation feature caught on well beyond any usual cult following, mainstreaming its way into a brief theatrical re-release in a slightly extended ‘Signature Edition.’ The extra five minutes are fine, if you even notice them as the film still starts with a striking prologue bringing our eponymous robot down from space to a storm at sea, and still has a bit of trouble finding its sweet spot getting past some generic exposition & relationship gags between single mom & young son. Of course, we know that Boy & Iron Monster will bond after they ‘meet cute’ and spend half the film hiding out from authorities as they get to know each other. But the film’s special tone comes less from story development than in the warm, evocative hand-drawn look Bird brings to 1950s small-town & countryside Maine; and the complications that arise when we learn that the Giant isn’t merely a weaponized robot, but an actual weapon, now painfully becoming a weapon with a conscience. It gives the film an emotional & intellectual tug rarely found in films aimed at kids . . . or anyone. And with the loveliest of tag-endings.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY/DOUBLE-BILL: Heavy DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL/’51 influence in here. Composer Michael Kamen even notes that Bird had Bernard Herrmann music on the temp track when he first saw the pic. Mostly from EARTH? Maybe Warners will put out a Bernard Herrmann edition.