***** (out of 5)
November 5, 2004
Craig T. Nelson as BOB PARR/MR. INCREDIBLE
Holly Hunter as HELEN PARR/ELASTIGIRL
Samuel L. Jackson as LUCIUS BEST/FROZONE
Jason Lee as SYNDROME
Elizabeth Peña as MIRAGE
Wallace Shawn as GILBERT HUPH
Directed by: Brad Bird
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Pixar has done it again. “The Incredibles” is a great little movie. Heck, it’s a great big movie. It’s one of those rare flicks that comes out that is almost everything it could possibly be.
“The Incredibles” tells the story of what might happen to real superheroes if they existed in the real world. One man sues Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) because he saved him from committing suicide – and adds insult to injury by claiming he got whiplash from the attempt. Also, a trainload of civilians go after Mr. Incredible because in the process of saving them from plunging to their deaths, they were knocked around in the train car and suffered undue heartache.
Unfortunately, this really isn’t that far fetched. We live in a world where people get sued for anything – and it is not uncommon to see a case on the books where, for example, a person sues firefighters for injuries sustained while they’re rescued from a burning building.
All these lawsuits cause the superheroes to go into retirement and hide within their secret identities. Over fifteen years, Mr. Incredible as Bob Parr has married Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) as Helen Parr and started a family in suburbia. But Bob hates his job, and because he just can’t resist saving people and almost blowing his cover, the family has to move every couple years. While Bob slaves away as an insurance adjuster, there is a mysterious figure coaxing him – and other superheroes – out of retirement.
“The Incredibles” manages to straddle between two types of stories. One is a spoof of the superhero genre itself. The other is just telling and honest-to-god good superhero movie. When I was asked by family members how the movie was, I said, “It was hilarious.” But let’s strike that. While the movie is funny, it is more than just a comedy. Just like “Finding Nemo” had much more to the story than just a fish comedy (which is all that this fall’s other CGI flick “Shark Tale” was), “The Incredibles” does a rather convincing job of telling the stories of these characters.
Only in recent years have superhero movies – like the X-Men and Spider-Man series – been able to live up to the comic books. And a lot of this is due to computer effects. Well, an all-CGI animated feature like “The Incredibles,” is the perfect way to merge special effects with a live-action feel. In fact, more than any other comic book movie made, “The Incredible” has been most successful in bringing the comic book page to life.
In addition to the superhero genre, “The Incredibles” takes some friendly jabs at others as well, most notably the James Bond series with its design of the super-villain Syndrome (Jason Lee) and his secret lair. Unlike some live action films that overuse CGI sets (like this year’s dreadful “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow”), Pixar underplays the locations, focusing on the detail to make them look real.
But forget all the aesthetics and computer generated wizardry. It’s also a fun action piece as well as a comedy and superhero homage. Pixar finally loosened their own leash in regards to the virtual camera. There are chase scenes – especially near the end with Dash, the lightning-quick kid – that put you in the drivers seat the way the magic carpet ride did in “Aladdin.”
And one final nod to the computer generated genius. Finally the look of humans are starting to look real. Not photorealistic, but like a three dimensional cartoon rather than a clunky computer generated model. Part of this is because the characters themselves are cartoony, but it sure beat the heck out of the look of the humans in the DreamWorks films or even earlier Pixar movies like “Finding Nemo” and the “Toy Story” films.
What makes all of Pixar’s films incredible is that they not only appeal to kids, but have plenty in them for the parents as well. There’s subtleties in the dialogue and character nuances. Sometimes they’re hilarious, most notably seen in Samuel L. Jackson’s character Frozone.
Bottom line, “The Incredibles” has some great funny moments, but it also tells a decent story – and that’s the catch when making any kind of movie.