Film Reviews


By • Nov 5th, 2004 •

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Buena Vista Pictures / Pixar Animation Studios
Running time — 115 minutes

QUOTE: Character-driven animation with angst and adventure

If, like me, you are tired of animation involving fish, bugs, and animals, this will be the movie for you. It will also revolutionize the target audience for animation.

It is so densely emotional and driven with complex characters that perhaps children will finally see their own family dramas on screen in a cartoon featuring superheroes.

Crime fighting superhero Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) finds himself up against lawsuits and an angry public tired of superhero shenanigans. Mr. Incredible and his wife, Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), voluntarily enter the Superhero Relocation Program. For fifteen years, Mr. Incredible, as Bob Parr, has worked as an insurance claims adjuster. Elastigirl, now Helen, is a stay-at-home mom to three children. Their son Dash (Spencer Fox) has super-fast powers they insist he keep secret; their daughter Violet (Sarah Vowell) is a bashful teen who has the ability to disappear at will. Bob and Helen have yet to discover baby Jack-Jack’s (Eli Fucile and Maeve Andrews) superhero abilities.

Bob has grown fat and dull. He has become an intimidated, middle-aged has-been in a self-made rut. He is miserable at his job, yet hopelessly a nice guy, trying hard to help old people by telling them how to beat the insurance claims system. His boss yells at him. However, on “bowling” night, Bob and his buddy, another superhero incognito, Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson), ride around and listen to a police scanner hoping to still fight crime (without getting noticed).

Superheroes have stalkers too, and Mr. Incredible has a fan, Buddy Pine (Jason Lee). Buddy wants to be Mr. Incredible’s protégé. Buddy, who reminded me of Jack Black (couldn’t Pixar get Jack Black?), is spurned by Mr. Incredible. Buddy promises revenge and christens himself “Syndrome,” a gadget-anchored, very rich villain.

A mysterious, sexy creature, Mirage (Elizabeth Pena), conveniently solves Bob’s unemployment problem by offering him a superhero job. When he succeeds, he returns to Helen a new man. He starts lifting weights, dressing better, buys a new car, and gets a prescription for Viagra.

Just kidding about the Viagra. He starts taking mescaline.

Jealous Helen figures out something is wrong when she gets a phone call from an old friend, the fabulous superhero costume designer Edna (Brad Bird). (By the way, THE INCREDIBLES creator gave himself the best part as Edna. She was divine. Darling, I want more of Edna in the sequel.) Helen has Edna design new superhero outfits for her and the children. Figuring out that Bob has gone off with Mirage instead of an insurance conference, Helen hops a jet after him. Unbeknownst to her, the kids have sneaked onboard. It’s all a ploy by the sinister Syndrome.

Until now, I have not been a big fan of animation, though I like the central truth that Bob Parr will not be seen in a sex video with teenage fans. Helen Parr will not fire her agent and start dating Ben Affleck.

THE INCREDIBLES is a very mature leap for Pixar Animation Studios. Bob and Helen yell at each other and the kids are angry. As characters they have dimensions that bugs and fish just cannot express. Besides this, the action-adventure part of the story is also well done with nods to James Bond and superhero comics. (The only thing Bird left out was an homage to Quentin Tarantino.) And, of course, the animation is outstanding and re-sets the bar. All the characters have enough facial characteristics to now allow further emotional depth to creep into the field of animation.

A worthy endeavor!

Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible: Craig T. Nelson
Helen Parr/Elastigirl: Holly Hunter
Lucius Best/Frozone: Samuel L. Jackson
Buddy Pine/Syndrome: Jason Lee
Bomb Voyage: Dominique Louis
Dash Parr: Spencer Fox
Violet Parr: Sarah Vowell
Jack-Jack Parr: Eli Fucile, Maeve Andrews
Gilbert Huph: Wallace Shawn

Director-screenwriter: Brad Bird
Producer: John Walker
Executive producer: John Lasseter
Associate producer: Kori Rae
Directors of photography: Janet Lucroy, Patrick Lin, Andrew Jimenez
Story supervisor: Mark Andrews
Production designer: Lou Romano
Music: Michael Giacchino
Editor: Stephen Schaffer

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