Incredibles, The

Pixar Scores With Mid-Life Crises

Main Voice Cast: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter

Director: Brad Bird

Pixar Studios has once again proven to be the premier purveyor of quality animated movies for kids. They also have a singular talent at making those same movies palatable for the adults accompanying said kids to the theater. Possibly more than once. And then watching (or napping through) the film a thousand times on DVD. In short, they know what they’re doing. This time around they present us with The Incredibles. Mr. Incredible (voiced by Craig T. Nelson) is one of many superheroes fighting crime and performing spectacular feats of daring-do throughout the world as the film opens. But the world seems to have outgrown their passion for these extraordinary folks, with lawsuits and bad press forcing them out of the world-saving business and into the real, average world of the working stiff. Mr. Incredible (aka Bob Parr) and his bride Elastigirl (aka Helen Parr, voiced by Holly Hunter) are just two of the many former celebrated superheroes to shuffle off into the suburbs where they try valiantly to be just like everybody else, holding down unsatisfactory jobs and living for the kids and the past. The government doesn’t want them around, so they need to try and fit in. But they don’t, not when they can perform incredible feats of strength, or stretch from here to tomorrow, or have offspring with equally amazing talents. All that pretending gets tough on a man. Especially when that man is having something of an existential mid-life crisis. When duty calls on Bob, he is more than ready to don his Mr. Incredible suit and go about saving the world once again. He might have thought to tell his wife first, but the details can wait until the world is safe!!!

As usual, the animation is top notch. Pixar’s trademark realism is there in spades, from the trees to the cars to the buildings. They’ve even stepped it up a notch with clothing and hair (especially of the villain – spectacular) that looks far more real than in the past. In fact, if you watch the credits, you’ll notice whole teams of people that worked solely on those two areas and it really pays off. The single place where Pixar has suffered in the past is in the rendering of people, especially faces and motions. Everything else looks so real, but the people don’t. So this time, instead of making that a liability, they turn it into a wonderful asset. Rather than trying so hard to make the people look as real as everything else, they take the chance to play with their skills, making caricatures. We get super muscular physiques, giant bulbous noses, tiny little characters, toothpick thin people, huge protruding jaws, the thinnest lips possible. These guys look like cartoons, and since they’re not playing out any sort of “real world” scenario, they’re perfect. As far as motion is concerned – these people don’t do “regular” things, they stretch and lift and run and disappear. Any stiff looking motion is completely overshadowed by their super powers. This is a set of characters tailor made for the particular strengths of Pixar animation.

The story itself is very cute and appealing. Like all the best children’s animated features, the story has more than one layer. We have the exciting tale of the superheroes fall into obscurity and rise from the listless life of the suburbs. There are chases and crashes and heroes and villains. The chases in particular are great fun. The animation is spectacular and the characters seem to enjoy them as much as the audience. Then over the top of this story, we have the story of Bob and Helen, separate from their identities as Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl. Their familial squabbles will sound familiar to any parent, and are made all the better because they’re often inserted into absolute chaos. A scene in which the kids want to know ”are we there yet” while the family is in the middle of world saving is wonderful.

In addition to the visuals, we get a score (Michael Giacchino) filled with the kind of fabulous overwrought melodrama reminiscent of the original Mission: Impossible. The story, from the look of the cars at least, looks to be set in or around the 1950s, making the choice of music even more perfect. The voice talent is solid, if not spectacular. Each character is well served, but none has a voice that will be forever identifiable as “the voice of Mr. Incredible”, or “the voice of Elastigirl”. These voices could probably be changed in a sequel without too much harm.

There isn’t a lot here to scare the kids – the violence is very cartoonish, even for a cartoon. There are some loud crashes and explosions and some tense moments, so be prepared to endure some arm clutching if you’re there with an easily scared small one. Included in the feature is another one of Pixar’s delightful pre-feature cartoons, this one about a sheep learning to live with his yearly sheering. Not as lovely as the chess game that precedes Toy Story, it’s still captivating for the kids.

The Incredibles is a wonderful family film. Kids will love the action, as well as the inclusion of child characters, and adults will enjoy the fun layer of family life amidst the superhero hijinks. I can’t quite see this one going down as the majestic feat that was Toy Story, but that was a breakthrough film. The Incredibles proves that Pixar can continue to expand their talents, providing ever more delightful visuals, and that they aren’t resting on their laurels. This film is inventive and fun in new ways for the studio. Definitely worth watching on the big screen, The Incredibles is incredible!

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