Iron Giant, The: Brad Bird’s Animated Adventure

This cool and charming animated adventure is directed by Brad Bird, then best known for his TV work on “The Simpsons” and “King of the Hill.”

The movie is loosely based on the book “The Iron Man” by British poet Ted Hughes, previously adapted for the stage by rock musician Pete Townshend, who executive produced the film.

Centering on an amiable, uniquely American hero, “The Iron Giant” is a smart, skillfully executed American fable that could be enjoyed by kids of all ages—and their families.

Set in 1957, at the end of the Cold War era, “Iron Giant” focuses on Hogarth (voice of Eli Marienthal), a wildly imaginative and adventurous boy, sort of a modern Huck Finn, who daydreams of alien invasions and doing battle with Communist agents.

One day, Hogarth hears a local fisherman talk about a 50-foot robot that fell from the sky into a nearby lake.

At first, Hogarth’s mom, Annie (Jennifer Aniston), is skeptical. But when Hogarth finds the robot (Vin Diesel) and fishes him out of the water, his pal Dean (Harry Connick Jr.), a beatnik sculptor who runs a junkyard, suggests hiding the robot with his salvage.

Soon, a government agent named Kent Mansley (Christopher McDonald) learns about the mechanical invader of unknown origins in the neighborhood and is determined to take care of the menacing threat.

But the robot (which loves to eat metal and is learning to talk) turns out to be friendly, and Hogarth tries to teach new human manners and skills to some funny results.

The bond between the two is so strong that at sweet, sentimental end, when we witness their inevitable separation, we are truly touched.