Now that everybody knows writer-director Brad Bird the mind behind Pixar's new superhero epic, The Incredibles maybe The Iron Giant will earn the audience it deserves. (Warner mishandled its theatrical release with a terrible marketing campaign—shame on them.) A sort of Cold War E.T. pairing a lonely boy with a metallic walking weapon of mass destruction from outer space, the heartfelt tale teems with baby-boomer touchstones: duck-and-cover nuclear-defense-drill movies in school; late-night horror flicks on black-and-white TV at home; and in town, the culture clash between paranoiac spy guys and hey-chill-out beatniks. If that sounds promisingly adult for a ''cartoon,'' well, that's Bird.
EXTRAS Amusing but rightly cut scenes, including one with a teacher, Mrs. Tensedge, voiced by Cloris Leachman; a commentary that's long on artist thanking; and an excellent embedded-menu production history (click on a nuts-and-bolts logo that pops up periodically), capped by Easter-egg footage of the giant ballet-dancing.