Review: The Incredibles

Posted by: Mark McLeod  //  November 5, 2004 @ 11:59am

Filed under: Movie Reviews 

For Bob Parr (Craig T. Nelson), aka Mr. Incredible, life couldn't be any better. Parr is a super hero who rushes around the city protecting the citizens and thwarting evildoers. His friends include Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson), a fellow crime fighter, and Elasti-Girl (Holly Hunter), who always shows up on the scene and tries to take credit for his hard work and steal the glory. One day, while driving down the street, he hears of a robbery on the police scanner and joins a high speed chase. Along the way, an old woman whose cat has gotten stuck in the tree stops him. Thinking he has enough time to do both, he agrees to rescue the animal, all the while the chase becoming closer and closer to his location. In true super hero form he saves the cat, stops the evildoers, and goes about his daily business, though in the process is running late for a very important appointment. We soon learn that the constant arguing between Mr. Incredible and Elasti-Girl is because they are dating and the appointment he is running late for is their marriage. Then one night, everything changes when Mr. Incredible rescues a jumper who doesn't want to be rescued. This leads to a number of lawsuits, which forces the government to make changes in the legislation prohibiting super heroes from doing their life work. As part of the deal, they are relocated and resituated into a life of normalcy. 15 years pass and Bob is now married with two kids " Violet and Dash " both who possess super powers, but due to the regulations can't use them. Helen's settled into life as a housewife, but Bob hates his job as an insurance adjuster and yearns for the old days when he was more appreciated. So what else is there for an out of work super hero and his best friend to do but moonlight on the occasional weeknight stopping crimes and getting out of there before the authorities can arrive. This catches the eye of the mysterious Mirage (Elizabeth Pena), who recruits Mr. Incredible to a secret island to stop the threat of an invention that has gone wrong. He performs the task admirably, though there is always a sense that things might not be what they seem. Unsatisfied with stopping the robot, he goes back to the island, which turns out to be a trap devised by the evil super villain Syndrome (Jason Lee), whose plan is to kill all the super heroes and become the sole provider of super services. Will Elasti-Girl be able to rescue her husband and thwart Syndrome's act on the world?

The Incredibles is the latest film from Disney/Pixar and by this point it is it really a surprise if the results are anything short of incredible. The studio which introduced the world to the talking toys in Toy Story and Toy Story 2, the monsters in your closet in Monster's Inc., and the under-the-sea world in which a little fish named Nemo resides, has once again swung for the fences and succeeded with The Incredibles. Directed by first-time CG director and The Simpsons alumnus Brad Bird, The Incredibles is a breathtakingly beautiful and well-rendered action/spy hybrid that also focuses a great deal of its running time to dealing with themes about acceptance and family. From the opening newsreel footage through to the closing action spectacle, the film is consistently funny and touching, and contains many high-impact action sequences on par with anything you'd expect to see in the latest James Bond-style adventure film. Bird borrows heavily from modern blockbusters like Spider-Man as well as the golden age of spy films from the 60s and 70s to create a rich and exciting film that works as well for 5-year-olds as it does for 55-year-olds (though this film does aim itself a bit older audience than the typical Pixar film). That warning aside, there is nothing questionable seen on screen and parents need not worry about taking their youngsters who have probably been anticipating the film just as long as their parents.

As is the case with every subsequent Pixar release, the animation quality has improved since their last effort. Known in the industry as the pioneers of the modern animation climate, Pixar has once again blown the socks off the latest effort from rival PDI, whose animation in Shark Tale looks like stick men in comparison. The biggest problem for CG animation has always been creating realistic human characters due to the intricate detail needed in human faces and human hair. Although the people in The Incredibles are not your atypical humans in that they have super powers " they can disappear, stretch, or break through walls " the animation is of a style that hasn't been done before. Even the smallest detail, like a strand of daughter Violet's hair, is given extra special care. In fact, the production notes detail that this is the most realistic human hair ever captured in a computer-generated film. The characters' facial expressions were also ultra realistic, and I found Elasti-Girl to have a sort of Jessica Alba-type look to her " and that, folks, isn't a bad thing. Aside from the smaller touches, the film also delivers on a grand scale with the large metropolitan backdrops, cosy and creepy secret lairs, and the everyday environments like an insurance office and the family home. Pixar doesn't take any shortcuts with their animation, reminding the viewer that they are truly trying to create visually-stunning pieces of motion picture film. It's always a pleasure to watch a Pixar film because you know that even if the story doesn't deliver (and it really only hasn't once in my opinion) then the visuals won't fail to impress.

Over the years, Pixar has had a history of assembling some first-rate voice talent. Although they might not always cast all A-list talent, they have a consistent level of vocal talent in their casts, which is made up of a mixture of top voice actors and the Hollywood heavyweights. Just look at Tom Hanks in Toy Story. Voicing The Incredibles, a family super hero team, we have Craig T. Nelson from TV's Coach, Holly Hunter from a handful of stellar films like last year's Thirteen, Sarah Vowell from NPR, and Spencer Fox as the young Dash. Craig T. Nelson does good work as a super hero and his performance was believable. Holly Hunter fared equally well despite some rough spots in the early minutes as single, sexy, and flexiable super hero and later as a stay-at-home mom withholding her need to be a super hero for her family. Samuel L. Jackson has a small role as an Iceman-esque character named Frozone, but the character sounds like Jackson sounds in everything else and I wasn't that overly convinced with the need to cast a big name in the role. The same goes for Jason Lee as Syndrome, although one could argue that he isn't a big name in Hollywood. Lee, best known as Brodie from Kevin Smith's Mallrats and for appearing in pretty much every Kevin Smith film since, does a good job as the villain, but he invokes his past character of Azrael from Dogma and I quite frankly wanted a bit more. But that's just because I think he is capable of much better. Cest la vie. Special mention should also go to director Brad Bird, whose Edna E. Mode is one of the funniest characters in the film with her fashion sense and love for designing costumes and gadgets for super heroes. Think of her as a sort of Edith Head meets James Bond's Q. Pixar veterans John Ratzenberger (the only man to have his voice in each Pixar film) and Wallace Shawn also contribute voices to the film.

One of the aspects that sets a Pixar film apart from its other family-oriented competition is the strong message and thematic material present in each and every film. As previously mentioned, The Incredibles deals with a couple different themes of importance to children and youth everywhere. The first one is that to be yourself you have to be different. Every one of us is super in our own special way and you don't need super powers to be a super person. In addition, it's about the ordinary trials and tribulations that face families on a day-to-day basis and how they balance their individual lives with their lives as a family. On one level, the film is a large-scale action adventure with many comedic moments, but at its core it's a simple story about a family and their love for one another, which while always present may not be spoken or acknowledged.

The Incredibles is yet another stellar Pixar production and one that is sure to delight audiences for weeks to come. As an added bonus, audiences will be the first to see the new Star Wars: Episode III " Revenge of the Sith teaser trailer in front of the film for its opening weekend (and possibly beyond). The Incredibles squashes any doubt (as if there was any to begin with) that Pixar is a top provider of family entertainment. Although not quite as good as Finding Nemo on an overall level, this is yet another stunning piece of motion picture filmmaking that has something for everyone and touches upon the very basis of strong movie making, proving that you don't need a live action cast to make a good movie. Pixar continues to heighten and strengthen their grasp on the marketplace, something Disney once did with traditional animation. At 115, minutes this may be the longest Pixar film yet, but it's still consistently engaging, and to use a pun I thought I'd avoid, is incredible. Highly recommended!

Mark McLeod has always loved film. In addition to his roles with ShowbizMonkeys.com, Mark also works on many film promotion projects in Vancouver, BC, through his company, Mark McLeod PR.

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