Incredibles, The (2004)
Release Date: November 5th, 2004 MPAA Rating: PG
Director: Brad Bird Actors: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, Jason Lee, Wallace Shawn, Sarah Vowell, Bud Luckey
he opening scene all by itself is sheer brilliance, mimicking old footage of TV interviews as various superheroes candidly talk about their secret identities. This sixth feature by Pixar (easily the leading benchmark-setter for quality in computer-animated films), “The Incredibles” is a grand achievement in every aspect of animation filmmaking – practically without equal (except, perhaps for other Pixar ventures). Winner of the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and nominated for Original Screenplay (a rare feat for a non-live-action production), it quite cleverly (disguised as a children’s movie but subtly skewed toward adults) examines the importance of family, teamwork, difficult decisions when it comes to individual benefit, power and the greater good, and society’s acceptance of those who are different – an idea similarly developed in the X-Men comics and motion picture trilogy. It is, in short, artistic, visionary, innovative, and, above all else, highly entertaining.
Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) is racing to an important black-tie engagement when he’s momentarily preoccupied with saving a cat from a tree, impeding a shootout and getaway chase, capturing a burglar with the help of Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), stopping a French bank robber (dubbed “Bomb Voyage”), foiling a suicide attempt, and discouraging young fan club leader Buddy (Jason Lee) from parading around as “Incrediboy.” Despite plentiful destruction, an L-Train disaster, and an angry, injured but nonetheless rescued man, Mr. Incredible makes it to his final destination: his own wedding, with Elastigirl. When Mr. Incredible is sued for the millions of dollars worth of incidental devastation to the city, it opens up the floodgates for other lawsuits. In short time, all the superheroes in the city are forced to relocate and hide amongst the regular humans to appease the outraged public. The “glory days” of crime-fighting are over.
Fifteen years pass, and Mr. Incredible is now just plain Bob Parr, working a desk job at Insuracare. Elastigirl is Helen Parr, taking care of their three children: Dash (with super speed), Violet (with invisibility), and baby Jack Jack (the only one without powers – the rest of the family roughly represents the Fantastic Four). Secretly, however, Bob and his longtime friend Lucius Best (Samuel L. Jackson), once known as the superhero Frozone, go out on Wednesday nights to apprehend criminals without being noticed by the authorities. The Parr family’s biggest problem, however, is trying to behave like normal people, as their superhuman abilities constantly tempt them to be put to vigilante use. As Dash and Violet struggle to blend in at school and Bob labors to avoid getting fired from his boring job by his annoying boss, the mysterious woman Mirage (Elizabeth Pena) contacts him with an interesting proposition – involving using his particular skillset to stop a rogue “Omnidroid” artificial intelligence learning robot, capable of mass destruction, unexplainably loosed on a remote island.
The level of action, violence, and carnage in “The Incredibles” is spectacular, making this one of Pixar’s most mature productions (especially with the death toll, repeated situations of intended fatality, marital discourse, and even torture, which resulted in a harsher PG rating). Meanwhile, the physics, movement, fluids, textures, lighting, backgrounds, environmental constructions, and more keep getting better. The character designs are just as impressive, once again making use of the typical anatomical exaggerations; the dialogue is intelligent and moving, while simultaneously spoofing superhero clichés; and the voice casting is sublime. But it’s the story that proves to be truly inspiring, reaching a point of perfection that Pixar seems to so often achieve, most unaccountably. With laugh-out-loud humor, fascinating twists on classic comic book superheroes, suspenseful dilemmas with imaginative resolutions, formidable adversaries, a particularly cruel villain, routinely thrilling undertakings, and genuine emotional drama, “The Incredibles” would go on to exceptional box office success and critical acclaim – and is currently ranked among their very best.
– Mike Massie