Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, Jason Lee and Wallace
115 Minutes, Directed by Brad Bird
nearly ten years ago as the pinnacle of modern animation, Pixar keeps
reaffirming its lofty status with every new release, and The Incredibles
is no exception. This remarkably entertaining and meaty motion picture is all
eye candy and goofy entertainment for children, but underneath lies a biting
denunciation on a number of contemporary topics, such as frivolous lawsuits,
among others. Writer/director Brad Bird tackled Cold War fears with his amazing
The Iron Giant, and he proves here that he's a sly
commentator as well as animator and storyteller.
The world in The Incredibles
is one inhabited by superheroes of varying abilities. Lately, the populace has
become fed up with their contributions, which usually result in expensive
reconstruction of private and public property. When Mr. Incredible stops a train
from falling off its destroyed tracks, the passengers sue over bodily injuries
sustained from the rescue. The ingratitude they show isn't all that ridiculous.
If there's a way to get money out of a situation, some people will exploit the
opportunity, and lawyers are too eager to help. How else to explain a recent
insane lawsuit against PayPal, or the lady suing McDonald's because the coffee
was too hot? In this film, a man sues Mr. Incredible because he saved his life,
which is something he didn't ask for.
After the latest round of
heroic deeds, all superheroes are ordered into a protection program where they
will blend in with society and use their powers no more. For Mr. Incredible
(Craig T. Nelson), this is a devastating blow. He enjoys doing good for people,
and the thought of never using his super strength again sends him on the brink
of depression. For the next 15 years, he will bounce from job to job, eventually
ending up with an insurance company where the boss (Wallace Shawn) cares more
for his stockholders than his customers. Mr. Incredible - real name Bob Parr -
does what he can to help his clients, but his boss isn't too happy with his
"It has the same jokey feel of previous Pixar films, but it's probably
the most mature work ever to come from the studio . . ."
Bob married Helen, who at one
time was known as Elastigirl. They have three children and live in a suburban
home with a white picket fence. Helen has learned to cope with her new life, but
Bob longs for the glory days. At night, he and his old friend Frozone (Samuel L.
Jackson) listen to the police band to assist in fighting crime or rescuing
victims. Bob's two older children are Dash (Spencer Fox) and Violet (Sarah
Vowell), each with his own kind of power, but forbidden to use them.
A mysterious woman named Mirage
(Elizabeth Peña) offers Bob a chance to be a hero again. An island is home to a
government experiment gone haywire. A huge robot, made up of an impenetrable
metal and capable of learning at a high rate of speed, is on the loose. Mr.
Incredible must stop it. He does, but a larger threat surfaces when supervillain
Syndrome (Jason Lee) acts on a grudge that he has held against Mr. Incredible
Brad Bird could have told a
straight superhero story, but there is such an exceptional amount of depth in
the screenplay that it's pretty clear he wanted to do more. He reveals the
frustrations of being a hero, as seen in the opening newsreel footage in which
Mr. Incredible compares himself to a maid: "I just cleaned up this place! Can't
you keep it clean for ten minutes!" The Parrs are prone to normal family
squabbles, but the children's special abilities add another level of
complications. Violet uses her invisibility powers to hide from the cutest guy
in class, while Dash only wants to play sports, but his mother won't let him.
His superpower is speed, and he would easily outrun anybody in school, giving
him an unfair advantage. Now the questions arises over whether Dash's gifts
should be curtailed out of fairness to the other students, or encouraged because
that's what parents are supposed to do.
15-year period during which Bob Parr only moonlights as a hero can be viewed as
his mid-life crisis. Like an athlete who looks back fondly at the prime of his
career, Bob stares at his wall, decorated with plaques thanking him for his
service. He can no longer take credit for performing heroic deeds, and out of
lack of enthusiasm, he gains weight and starts losing his hair. Moonlighting as
a hero gives him a temporary feeling of satisfaction, but it's not the same
thing as saving the world in broad daylight. Unlike his wife, Bob actually
encourages his son to use his speed, which could be interpreted as the father
living his dream through his son.
The Incredibles has the
same jokey feel of previous Pixar films, but it's probably the most mature work
ever to come from the studio. Combining Brad Bird's vision with Pixar's
animation was a stroke of genius. Doing so had the one-two punch of a
high-quality script and superior animation. Though the film is loaded with
subtext, what comes through the most is the excitement factor, and on that level
the movie delivers splendidly.
- Bill King
— and, as my friend Nathan of Cold Fusion Video
Reviews remarked, it actually makes the upcoming Fantastic
Four project movie
— James O'Ehley