Saturday, January 22, 2005

The Incredibles

The Incredibles
Directed by Brad Bird
2004, rated PG
4 stars

Everyone loves superheroes. We love to read about them in comics, and we love to watch them perform spectacular feats on our televisions. Films about superheroes such as the recent Spiderman, and X-Men, (and their sequels) have been enormous hits. Everything about superheroes is fascinating, from their powers to their secret identities. Pixar’s newest computer-animated film, The Incredibles, directed by Brad Bird, concerns itself with not one superhero, but an entire family.

Bob Parr (voiced by Craig T. Nelson) was once Mr. Incredible, saving the world, performing daring deeds, and working for the greater good of mankind, alongside the other famous superheroes of his day. However, after a series of unfortunate law suits, and a sudden turn of public favor, all the supers had to go underground and live their lives as simple, ordinary, everyday people. This has proven especially hard for Bob—he just can’t kick the habit of saving people. As his wife Helen (Holly Hunter), formerly Elastigirl, tries to get him to pay attention to his new life and growing family, Bob struggles with his disappointing job and feelings of futility. Even his best friend Lucius (Samuel L. Jackson), formerly Frozone, encourages him to just accept it and move on with his life. Bob is then thrown a suspicious twist when invited back into action by a mysterious employer. As Bob stumbles into what anyone else would have recognized as a trap, Helen, and their stow-away children, rush to the rescue.

Although the plotline is somewhat predictable, it’s the little things that make this film worthwhile. For example, the superpowers of each superhero are impressive, and perfectly placed. Bob has any man’s wish of incredible strength, while his wife Helen has amazing power to stretch herself into any shape imaginable—a physical representation of the already astounding ability of most moms. Their children have equally stunning talents. Their son Dash (Spencer Fox), in relevance to his name, can run at superhuman speeds, and their daughter Violet (Sarah Vowell) disappears at will, and can also create impenetrable force fields—any teenage girl’s dream. Perhaps the best character of all, however, is not even a superhero—at least, not in the typical sense of the word. Edna “E” Mode (voiced by Brad Bird), is a famous designer with a short stature, big personality, and fast mouth. She is overall the most entertaining and commanding character of the film, and thoroughly steals every scene she’s in. Her fast talking, quick witted, demanding dialogue, combined with her hilarious figure, shape her into the epitome of rich famous designers, accustomed to having everything her way.

As with most computer-animated films, one of the best features, besides the characters themselves, is the skillfulness with which the images are created. In The Incredibles, the scenery, and overall scenes, have been constructed with wonderfully entertaining mastery. The volcanic island which Bob gets duped into going to reveals amazing inner workings, unfolding like a paradise theme park. Bob’s workouts as he attempts to get himself back into super shape take place at a railroad junction where he lifts individual railroad cars and pulls entire trains down the tracks in the dramatic orange lighting of late afternoon. The film opens with an interesting sequence of “old” interview footage, showing the superheroes in their prime, discussing their work and plans for the future. This sets the film up nicely, and serves as a good introduction to the super characters and their personalities. Other techniques and stunts throughout the film prove to be entertaining as well, with explosions large and frequent enough for any die-hard action fan, as well as amusing sequences involving everyday life.

The Incredibles sends the predictable morals every Disney movie must, and has a fairly typical storyline. However, the little things mean the most, and while many computer-animated films focus mainly on the glitz and special effects made possible by this style, this film has added some heart. While the plot may be formulaic and rather basic, it has enough thrown in to still make it entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable for any age group or fan base. Perhaps it’s not incredible, but it is definitely super.

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