Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Movie Review: The Incredibles

United States, 2004
U.S. Release Date: 11/5/04 (wide)
Running Time: 1:55
Rated: PG
Cast: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, Jason Lee, Elizabeth Peña , Spencer Fox, Sarah Vowell, Lou Romano,Wallace Shawn, Eli Fucile, Maeve Andrews

Director: Brad Bird
Producer: Jon Walker
Screenplay: Brad Bird
Music: Michael Giacchino
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures

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Following the big box-office hits of Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2, Monster’s Inc., and Finding Nemo, Pixar’s sixth collaboration film with Disney (in a seven film contract ending after next year’s Cars) is unsurprisingly another success. The Incredibles packs the first-class animation effects of all of its Pixar predecessors with the wondrous superhero action of the DC/Marvel comics. Then again, it lacks a little in the quality category compared to the likes of Toy Story and Finding Nemo. Even so, The Incredibles is enjoyable in numerous ways and provides for satisfactory end of the year entertainment.

The Incredibles covers the mid-life crisis of a formerly-happenin' superhero named Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson). In his prime, Mr. Incredible was accustomed to saving countless lives and finding his face on almost every magazine cover and front page of the newspaper, but soon he found himself being sued by a man that did not want to be saved from committing suicide. In time, more and more people jumped on the bandwagon to sue the superhero for ridiculous reasons—forcing both Mr. Incredible and his newly wedded bride, Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) to relocate their lives and suppress their superpowers.

Fast forward fifteen years— Bob Parr (a.k.a. Mr. Incredible) spends his days jammed into a cubicle - the size of his upper body - settling insurance claims, while his wife Helen (a.k.a. Elastigirl) stays home and manages their three kids Dashiel (Spencer Fox), Violet (Sarah Vowell), and Jack Jack (Eli Fucile and Maeve Andrews). Dashiel (a.k.a. Dash) has the capability of running at super-speed, Violet can both supply a force field and turn invisible, and Jack Jack apparently has no superpowers at all—or at least he hasn’t been given a chance to show them off. At any rate, the three young children are told to never use their powers in fear of the family falling victim to the SRP (Superhero Relocation Program) once more.

While stuck in his dead-end job, Bob still manages to find the time to relive his glory days with his old pal Lucius Best (a.k.a. Frozone) (Samuel L. Jackson). After telling both of their wives they are taking part in a bowling league, Bob and Lucius venture out to listen to police scanners hoping something goes awry, and when the scanner becomes active, so do Bob and Lucius. When trouble strikes, they suit up as Mr. Incredible and Frozone and save the day (or night for that matter).

However, when Bob gets fired from his desk job and is offered another from an apparent superhero recruiter named Mirage (Elizabeth Peña), he decides to revert to his days of being a superhero. Meanwhile, completely unbeknownst of Bob’s addiction to the adrenaline rush of saving civilians, Helen thinks that Bob is just going on a series of business trips for his old insurance occupation. Conversely, Bob is not in his insurance-man suit and tie, but rather his new, red, capeless Mr. Incredible suit.

While on his new job, Mr. Incredible is given the task to defeat an evil robot named Omnidroid 7, and he triumphs. However, Mr. Incredible soon realizes that the Omnidroid 7 was designed with the intention to kill Mr. Incredible and other superheroes the same by Syndrome (Jason Lee), an evil inventor from Mr. Incredible’s past. Now, trapped on Syndromes’ fortress island, Mr. Incredible is unaware that his wife and kids have figured out his secret and that they are on their way to save him from Syndrome's wrath.

Not only does Brad Bird receive accreditation for writing and directing this feature, but he also plays one of the film’s most memorable characters—Miss Edna “E” Mode, the Incredible's very own superhero seamstress. Craig T. Nelson also does a superb job of humanizing a cartoon-looking hero, and Holly Hunter, although she has a little too distinct of a voice to hide behind an animated character, finds it easy to go from superhero to mother and vice versa. Samuel L. Jackson and Jason Lee are also equally notable.

If you happen to be slightly cultured in comics, it is quite easy to see where writer/director Brad Bird found his inspiration. Each of the film’s characters share an ability with one of the DC/Marvel heroes. Elastigirl is obviously comparable to Mr. Fantastic; Dash to The Flash; Violet to The Invisible Woman; Frozone to Iceman; and Mr. Incredible to The Thing—only Mr. I. is not made of stone. Also to note, is a scene in which Elastigirl is piloting a plane, which is quite reminiscent of Hunter’s prior work in Always. Be that as it may, while Bird’s muses may appear to be Xeroxes of other already-existing superheroes and motion-pictures, they are more likely signs of homage than thievery.

The Incredibles not only establishes itself with honorable action, but it also carries an omnipresent familial message. It proves that a nuclear family can possess powers—super or otherwise; it shows that parents’ impressions can impact a child’s demeanor in more ways than one; and it holds the supremacies of togetherness, love, and kin over all those that are superhuman.

While The Incredibles does say a lot about the command of a family, and in doing so will surely please children, adolescents, and adults alike, it isn’t exactly a film that deserves the superlative adjective “incredible” when commenting on the picture. Let me put it this way, it’s no Nemo. Nonetheless, The Incredibles is yet another Pixar production that deserves both blockbuster status and considerable acclaim. (*** out of ****)

© Copyright Brandon Valentine 2004