2004-11-11 / On the Town

"The Incredibles"

"The Incredibles"

Directed by: Brad Bird

Starring: (voices of) Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, Elizabeth Peña, Jason Lee and Spencer Fox

Rated: PG-13 (for bloodless cartoon mayhem)

Running time: 116 minutes

Best suited for: families with kids—or families without kids, a great date flick, teens and ’toon fans of all ages

Least suited for: only the most scurrilous of animation dissidents

Acorn’s Rating Guide:

4 acorns

"The Incredibles" is the sixth Pixar flick to hit theaters, following the triumphant "Toy Story," "A Bug’s Life," "Toy Story 2," "Monsters, Inc.," and "Finding Nemo." The film is no less astounding in terms of production values—scripting and plot structure and computer-generated animation (not to mention being Pixar’s first feature to portray humans as central characters). But it’s also Pixar’s first film to truly blur the line between reality and animation. Textures, backgrounds and movement have been rendered eerily authentic and true to life. The line between substance and pixilated nothingness has blurred beyond reasonable doubt.

Is it real or is it Pixar?

Pretty soon, I don’t know if an audience will know, or care.

But enough about reality. "The Incredibles" is a delightful respite from reality—one of the most dazzling and sophisticated CGI (Computer Generated Image) films to date. Unwilling to rest on the laurels—or the kid-centered reality—of films like "Nemo" and "Monsters," Pixar has stretched the artistic envelope once again, producing a film as entertaining for action-adventure purists and hopeless romantics as it is for pratfall-loving tots. "The Incredibles" has managed to concoct that elusive blend of cross-demographic perfection—an utterly inoffensive film ideal for every age and very likely every taste.

"The Incredibles" employs a simple, yet terrific, concept. Twenty years ago Bob Parr (voiced by Craig T. Nelson) was the incredible Mr. Incredible, a beloved superhero whose fortunes dissolved with a rash of wrongful-injury lawsuits. The age of the superhero was ending, the world’s noble protectors forced out of business, obliged to live incognito among the masses. Mr. Incredible married the former Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) and retired as a much-maligned claims adjuster.

Three kids and 30 pounds later, Bob’s having a tough time with mundanity. He hates his boss, bickers with his wife and scolds the kids, who grumble at having to hide their emerging super powers as well. Bob begins to moonlight (his wife thinks he’s out bowling), anonymously fighting crime with former superhero Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson)—which, of course, leads to big trouble in a delightfully madcap sort of way.

It will take a family effort to put the pieces together again. In the process, there’s some serious adult interaction, moments of surprisingly uncartoon-like respect and patience and understanding—all those ingredients that make real-life families work. (For the kids, think of "The Incredibles" as a spoonful of sugared medicine, good for ’em and good-tasting, too.)

To my surprise—in a theater packed with tykes under 5 or 6—the place remained utterly still. I suspected some of the more adult-oriented themes would wander over the youngsters’ heads, rendering half the audience restless and cranky. But I underestimated the CGI-weaned toddler set: they sat transfixed. If unaware of the hidden innuendo, they were captivated by the animation and movement or perhaps by the oddly revealing humanity of it all.

What’s lacking in this one? Not much, although sci-fi fans will likely note some semblance of "been there, done that," a puzzle-piecing of films like "X-Men," "Mom and Dad Save the World," "Spy Kids"—even a "Return of the Jedi" high-speed forest chase. And you may detect some old James Bond-type sleuthing, accompanied by a decidedly 007-ish soundtrack. I suppose one could call it "homage" and leave it at that because there are only so many ways to save the world, and live happily ever after, and leave room for a possible sequel. For the most part, "The Incredibles" does it all in a joyfully refreshing and completely fun way.

In a nutshell: "The Incredibles" is the perfectly scripted, perfectly—um, acted—CGI vehicle to depict the struggle of good vs. evil while balancing one’s family responsibilities. It’s action-packed and articlulate, certainly one of Pixar’s more sophisticated feature films, and I suspect few people, young or old, will walk away unfulfilled.

Return to top