The Incredibles, a review
Theatrical Release: November 5, 2004 / Running Time: 115 Minutes / Rating: PG
Pixar has been batting 1000 with their animated feature films until now. Without being formulaic, the creative minds in Emeryville have managed to hit upon the recipe for fantastic success with each new release. The Incredibles is the least formulaic feature yet and likely to be the most successful.
Not content to stand on their successes of the past, Pixar brought in the team from the new classic animated film, The Iron Giant. Director Brad Bird and his team of storytellers and artists admittedly had little to no experience with computer generated animation, Pixar’s specialty. This meant they had no idea of the limits of the media and were able to push the boundaries of CG animation to new and exciting places.
The film opens up with a series of interviews intended to provide a look at Superheroes as normal people with normal problems. From there you get to see Mr. Incredible, secret identity Bob Parr, at work as he solves crimes and rescue’s kittens, literally at the same time, and all before being married to a fellow superhero Elastigirl/Helen Parr. From there, things rapidly go downhill as lawsuits drive the Superheroes into the Superhero Relocation Program and into the drab suburban lifestyle.
Fifteen years later some of the superheroes have adjusted better then others. Helen Parr likes here role as homemaker raising their three kids (Violet, Dash, and Jack-Jack) and encouraging them to control their own superpowers. Husband Bob on the other hand, feels stuck in his Insurance Job where he subverts the system one too many times and ends up out of a job.
This winds up being the catalyst for the return of Mr. Incredible, who has more than a little Buzz Lightyear in him, to the role of superhero. As he gets more and more involved in the caper his family gets brought in. The rest of the story involves the family coming together as a unit. In some ways it’s a very touching film.
But the strength of the film is how it combines action, humor, and plot to keep the audience entertained and immersed in the comic book world for its 115 minute length, long for an animated feature. A few more cuts here and there might have tightened up the film to perfection, but there are very few spots where I found myself wondering when the pace would pick up.
The action, music, and artistic direction of the film give it a very James Bond feeling. In fact, at times I wondered if I wasn’t watching an homage to the first Bond film, Dr. No. This and the time setting (late 50s early 60s) also lent a cold-war feel and the final conflict had cold-war overtones as well.
The Incredibles is rated PG, for some comic book violence, if you feel your child can handle Saturday morning superhero cartoons, then they can enjoy this film. Adult situations and bodily function humor is kept to a bare minimum here and the dual messages of the film, that it’s okay to be different and the importance of friends and family, are good ones.
I loved the artistic direction in The Incredibles and found myself constantly wowing as new set pieces were revealed. The music works perfectly with the period feel of the film and only comes to the front when it aids the narrative. Finally, the voice casting in the film was wonderful. Although you may not think of these real life actors in these roles, as voices they’ve created a masterful picture of the character they’re portraying. Plus fans of Samuel Jackson will enjoy his supporting role.
Finally, it wouldn’t be a Pixar film without a character voiced by John Ratzenberger. He makes an appearance at the very end. Director Brad Bird also does a stint as the super fashion designer Edna Mode. Voiced and designed as a tribute to legendary Hollywood costumer Edith Head. Bird has created quite a wonderful character (can you say spin off). Brad Bird also has a regular couple of characters modeled after Ollie Johnson and Frank Thomas in his films. They make a short but wonderful appearance in this film as well. Unfortunately it will probably be there last time together on screen. A great tribute to two of the masters of the artform. (Although I don’t know how they feel about being CGI characters.)
The Incredibles is packaged with two other delights from Pixar. First is a trailer for the upcoming film ‘Cars.’ Another topic I just can’t see working as a feature animated film, but Pixar has wowed me every time so far, I’m willing to give them a chance. The second is a short film entitled ‘Boundin’ — a fun bit of cowboy poetry that sums up the Pixar philosophy toward life. If you ask me, this piece has Frontierland Attraction written all over it.
So find your supersuit, hop in your gadgetmobile, and swing on over to the cinemaplex this weekend for an incredible bit of animation fun from Pixar. The Incredibles is perhaps Pixar’s best film yet and is sure to reap box office and industry awards in hero sized proportions.
Buena Vista Pictures
Pixar Animation Studios
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
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
Running time — 115 minutes.
MPAA rating: PG