The Incredibles (2004) / Animation-Action
MPAA Rated: PG for violence
Running Time: 115 min.
Cast: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Jason Lee, Samuel L. Jackson, Spencer Fox, Sarah Vowell, Elizabeth Pena, Brad Bird
Director: Brad Bird
Screenplay: Brad Bird
Review published November 6, 2004
Brad Bird made quite an impression with his last animated adventure, 1999's highly overlooked The Iron Giant. Now, he's working with the amazing artists at Pixar for his latest foray into family fare with The Incredibles, a superhero spoof that gives us a peek into the family life of your friendly neighborhood crime fighters, and the dilemma between putting family first or saving the world. It's nothing novel as far as ideas go, as many comic books deal with the private lives of those with superpowers and whether or not they should devote more time to social responsibility or family. Where the makers of The Incredibles score most of their points is in the presentation, with jaw-dropping visuals, energetic music, exciting confrontations, and vividness of scope.
The Incredibles starts off in a time when society grew accustomed to superheroes saving their collective bacons, and just like the comic books, these brave, gifted men and women assumed secret identities, donned flashy costumes, and did everything they could to preserve human life. That is, until the most famous of them, Mr. Incredible (voiced by Craig T. Nelson, Poltergeist), decides to save a man who intentionally jumps from a high-rise building, and gets sued, not because he saved a life, but for ruining a death. From then on, the superheroes slowly make their way back into leading normal lives, afraid of being victims to lawsuits for performing their noble deeds. So Mr. Incredible becomes the meek Bob Parr. He marries his partner-in-crime, Elastigirl (Holly Hunter, Living Out Loud), who becomes Helen Parr. Their superhuman traits carry into their children, Dash and Violet, who all live under a family pledge to never let anyone know about their super powers.
Well, for fifteen years, Bob has been just a has-been working for an insurance agency, and he hates it, but he abides by his wife's wishes, sucks in his gut, and lets the world around him crumble while he turns a blind eye. That is, until he finally cracks and assaults his demanding boss, leaving him jobless and too ashamed to tell his spouse he screwed up. However, all seems rosy again, when he is contacted by a secret organization who wishes to hire him, not as Bob, but as Mr. Incredible, out to save the world from a malignant robotic force. He tests his mettle, but becomes outmatched, so it's up to family to try to save the day.
The Incredibles is a mix of idealized genres from the 1960s, most notably, superheroes and spy films, and perhaps more accurately, Marvel's "The Fantastic Four" and MGM's James Bond franchises. Mr. Incredible possesses traits found in Superman, Elastigirl in the FF's Mr. Fantastic, Dash is like the Flash, and Violet has the invisibility and force-field powers of FF's Invisible Woman. Samuel L. Jackson (Twisted, SWAT) voices their crony, Frozone, which is similar to the X-Men's Iceman, while their arch-nemesis, Syndrome, is a typical mad scientist who possesses no real powers, a la FF's Dr. Doom or Supes' Lex Luthor.
Yes, it's a derivative film, although it is quite fun, but this time Pixar has chosen to tread into territories that have been explored countless times in the world of comics, and even in cinema in recent years. The family of superheroes with a super-spy twist has already been done in films like the Spy Kids series, the wrangling between world responsibility vs. self in Spider-Man, and the super powered outcast angle done in X-Men. It's a scenario that's been spoofed, re-spoofed, and even the spoofs have been spoofed, so in that realm, it's a very familiar movie without many surprises.
But you've never seen it look this good before. The Incredibles lives up to its name by giving us a gorgeous world of fantasy to behold, with blazing special effects, characters that exhibit well-rounded personalities, and a fantastic sense of style. For a movie that plays fast and loose in the realm of others, it does so with the expertise and professional finesse you've come to know, love and respect from the folks at Pixar, who have yet to release a bad film. Sure, this may not rank as high in the hearts of people who've seen Toy Story or Finding Nemo, with their childlike innocence and heart-warming messages, but as a PG-rated adolescent adventure, it has the stuff to make this a winner for most.
The only thing keeping The Incredibles from being one of the best films of the year is a case of the lulls now and then. At 105 minutes, it's the longest major 3D animated adventure thus far, and Bird's story does have a sense of overkill, especially in a prolonged scene where Mr. Incredible is held captive and despairing for his existence. Still, I wouldn't really change a thing, it's so well-made, these lulls do provide a much-needed breather from the frenetic action and comedy that fills up the remainder of the time.
Again, this is a PG movie, and perhaps a tad too intense at times for the very youngest of cognizant viewers, but it should appeal to all other ages quite well, especially those who regularly enjoy television cartoon fodder on a regular basis. Fun stuff, worth every penny of the price of admission.
©2015 Vince Leo