Laura CliffordThere was a time, in the past, when superheroes could do their jobs, save humanity and make a nice living. But, even then, lawyers rule the world and one such superhero, Mr. Incredible (voice of Craig T. Nelson), AKA Bob Parr, is sued for stopping a suicidal jumper from killing himself. Suddenly, litigation runs rampant and those with amazing super powers must learn to be average citizens. But, it’s not that easy for Bob to give up the business in “The Incredibles.”
Animation director Brad Bird doesn’t have an extensive track record in his chosen field – he directed the Family Dog” episode on Steven Spielberg’s “Amazing Stories” series, a season of “The Simpsons” and, most recently, the wonderful (and woefully underrated) animation feature, “The Iron Giant.” Bird has big shoes to fill - those of Pixar fave John Lassetter (“Toy Story,” “A Bug’s Life,” “Toy Story 2”) - with his latest venture, “The Incredibles.” But, boy, does he fill them.
Things start off in a flashback to a day when mild mannered Bob Parr hears, over his police radio, of a high-speed police chase and shootout taking place nearby. He dons his superhero uniform and sets off to help the police stop the bad guys, but not before getting a kitty cat down from a tree for a sweet old lady. Mr. Incredible, and the rest of the country’s masked avengers, are bound to truth, justice and the American way, but its money, money, money that talks when the litigation tide forces them all into the Superhero Protection Program. Their powers stripped away, the former righters of wrong must now become a part of the normal, civilian population.
But, Bob and his friend and former superhero Frozon (voice of Samuel L. Jackson) just can’t kick the old masked crusader habit. They tell their wives that they are going bowling but, in reality, they are secretly out righting wrongs and meting out justice to criminals everywhere. During their evening escapades they are unwittingly being watched by the mysterious and beautiful Mirage (voice of Elizabeth Pena) who recruits Bob for a secret government assignment.
This is just the beginning of “The Incredibles,” the latest and, to me, one of the best of the Pixar/Disney collaboration and one that shows the firm imprint of director/writer Brad Bird. The adventure continues as Bob’s wife and former S.H. (superhero), Elastigirl, AKA Helen, super fast son Dash (Spencer Fox) and invisibility-capable daughter Violet (Sarah Vowell) are drawn into the fray and must don the new Incredibles super hero/super family suits designed by the diminutive but outspoken superhero fashion maven Edna Mode (brilliantly voiced by Brad Bird with an affectionate parody of famed movie fashion designer Edith Head).
The Incredibles” does many things and references many movies in the process. You have a near TV sitcom, as Bob must hide his super powers as he plies his trade as an insurance adjuster for the company, Insuracare, a place that only cares about profits, not its premium paying clients. Bob, in his way, performs super feats in his job as he helps the little guy to wade through the red tape imposed by insurance companies. I can see the Disney network doing a spin-off on the lives of the Incredibles as average Joes, never mind its other potential to easily spawn a sequel or two.
There is a James Bondian quality that smacks of such live action 007 flicks as “Diamonds Are Forever” and To Live and Let Die.” The film score, by Michael Giacchino has a suitable, familiar Bond-like quality to it. But, wait, there’s more. You also get incredible state-of-the-art CGI that pays homage to the “Indiana Jones” franchise and “Star Wars” and take them a step beyond. The complexity of story and its many facets makes “The Incredibles” a true original.
The vocal talents that make up the cast of “The Incredibles” provide the perfect note to their roles. You won’t find the likes of Brad Pitt (“Sinbad”), Kenneth Branagh and Kevin Kline (“El Dorado”) or Eddy Murphy drawing your attention away from the story. Instead, Craig T. Nelson gives Bob Parr a natural, working guy kind of voice. Holly Hunter does a more-than-competent job as Helen, the wife and mother who uses her super elastic powers to make domestic life a bit easier. Hunter transitions to her Elastigirl persona easily but always has that worrying mom quality. The Incredible kids, as voiced by Fox and Vowell, fill in the Parr family just right.
The rest of the cast fills the bill admirably. Animation stalwarts, John Ratzenberger and Wallace Shawn (both of “Toy Story” fame), lend their vocal talents in their small roles. Elizabeth Pena puts a sexy seductiveness on her vocal rendition of Mirage. Samuel L. Jacks performs with exuberance as Bob’s buddy, ice-making Frozon. Jason Lee gives bad guy Syndrome, AKA Buddy, a whining know-it-all quality as a mad genius that never grew up.
The Incredibles” is an exemplary example of expert animation filmmaking showing that Brad Bird easily makes the transition from 2D to 3D anime. He did such a wonderful job with the traditionally drawn “The Iron Giant” that I hope he keeps his hand in the old ways. His CGI debut bodes very well for the filmmaker and he puts the team at Pixar to good use in bringing this for-nearly-all-ages extravaganza to the screen. It has a PG rating for some violence and may not be suitable for smaller children. 8-years old and up should be fine.
I don’t often say (actually, almost never say) this about a film but, when I emerged from a screening of The Incredibles,” I immediately wanted to see it again. I’d have a chance to see it again at a Saturday kids’ screening but that’s the morning I’m flying away on vacation. I wonder if I can convince the pilot to hold the plane a couple of extra hours? I give it an A.
Laura gives "The Incredibles" an A-. (Mix the "X-Men" with "True Lies" and "Spy Kids" then add the retro design of "The Powerpuff Girls" all tied together with the magical technology of Pixar.)
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