Directed by Brad Bird
For me, one of the most anticipated movies this year, The Incredibles overwhelmed me with a heart-tugging story told with eye-popping 3-D graphics. I had seen enough of the artwork beforehand to have a pretty good idea that I was going to like the overall look of the film. But not only does it look good but the action sequences are realized more powerfully than I thought possible using animation. The Incredibles is a story of a family of superheroes – a mom, a dad, and three little superheroes – who, after living incognito for a number of years, are forced back into service to save the world from an evil mad scientist (but no garden variety mad scientist – more on that later.) As you probably know, Pixar produced The Incredibles, the latest in an unbroken string of mega-hits (including Finding Nemo, Toy Story, and Monsters, Inc.) Not only do all of their films impress visually, but they do a consistently good job developing characters that make viewers care about the story. The theme of the film: how this family, for all their differences and conflicts, hangs together in a time of emergency, using their various powers to complement each other.
The movie is also full of humor – for example, the family had to go into hiding, swearing off any super-human feats, because of large lawsuit awards to people who they saved but were still able to sue the city government. So the super-strong Mr. Incredible (voiced by Craig T. Nelson) is reduced to living in suburbia, sitting at a desk job that he hates, and getting fat and out of shape. Super-stretchable Elastigirl (aka Mrs. Incredible, aka Mom, fantastically voiced by Holly Hunter) is a little happier with domestic life but is having quite a bit of difficulty handling her two older super-powered kids – Dash (a little boy endowed with super speed, voiced by Spencer Fox), and Violet (a shy teenager able to disappear and create force fields.) Dash came across as a typical little boy who can’t sit still – I could easily relate to him – except that his legs are super-charged – exaggerating the hyper-little-boy stereotype to comic effect. Elastigirl is funny as the mother who is stretched thin coping with a difficult, if lovable, set of kids – a metaphor for today’s super-mom. The filmmakers did a wonderful job of giving the family members distinct personalities – warts and all. I believe that audiences will connect strongly with this family and get hooked into the story.
Fashion designer to the supers Edna Mode (aka “E”, superbly voiced by writer/director Brad Bird) is one of the funniest characters put on screen in years. Her scenes with Elastigirl are my favorites. I loved it when E gives Elastigirl a pep talk when she suspects that Mr. Incredible may on some exotic island doing who knows what after telling her that he was going to a business conference.
Many sci-fi and super-hero movies are weak in the development of the villain(s). Not so here – the mad-scientist villain is a frustrated wanna-be super-hero who was a bright student of science as a kid but was shunned by the real super-heroes when he tried to tag along. Syndrome – featuring a great voice performance by Jason Lee – is more of a cool-looking funny villain than a really scary menace – making the movie more accessible to younger kids – although I would still cut it off at about age 6 – younger kids probably won’t appreciate the humor anyway. The Syndrome character struck me as a send-up of the clever kid who gets hooked on comics but still excels at math and science. Those kids – many of whom will watch this movie 50 times when it comes out on DVD – will see themselves in Syndrome and learn a lesson from the character’s flaw – envy. Syndrome envied Mr. Incredible which led him jeopardize all that he had accomplished.
I can’t recall an animated movie with action sequences as powerfully realized as in The Incredibles -- when their jet plane is shot down the scene is just as stunning – images and sound – as a well-executed, big-budget Hollywood action movie – I really felt it in my gut. Director Brad Bird (known for 1999’s The Iron Giant -- which was never released into theaters but became a cult favorite on video) understands how to deliver a classic “wham-o” to his audience. It isn’t gratuitous though, he first develops his characters and then gets you hooked on the storyline behind the action before dealing his impressive audio-visual knockdowns.
The Incredibles comes together beautifully as a story of an exceptional but familiar family that puts their differences aside to come together in a crisis. The development of that family-values theme is done exceptionally well in every way: writing, graphic art, voice acting, editing, and, most of all, the way that the action scenes were orchestrated maximum dramatic effect. This film is a must-see – and you really need to do it right and see it on the big screen – it just won’t have the same effect from a TV set.
Photographs are copyright Disney/Pixar.
For more information about this film including detailed cast and crew credits, check out The Internet Movie Database by clicking here.