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Incredibles’ provides Pixar with another winner

Brian Doxtader | Monday, November 8, 2004

Pixar’s “The Incredibles” is a visually-stunning parody of, and homage to, the entire superhero genre. Like all Pixar films, however, it doesn’t let its outstanding computer animation overshadow a character-driven plot that pulses with nigh-perfect rhythm and life. In the hands of director Brad Bird, whose previous credits include “The Iron Giant” and some episodes of “The Simpsons,” “The Incredibles” becomes a quick-paced adventure that is witty, entertaining and funny.The plot concerns a superhero, Mr. Incredible (voiced by Craig T. Nelson), and his wife Elastigirl (voiced by Holly Hunter), who are forced into civilian life and government protection by numerous lawsuits filed against costumed heroes. A middle-aged Mr. Incredible is lured out of retirement by a private, top-secret mission which allows him to be a superhero again. Eventually, his entire super-powered family, which includes his Flash-like son Dash (Spencer Fox) and his sometimes-invisible daughter Violet (Sarah Vowell), become involved.This is the first Pixar film to be rated PG rather than G, which accounts for its slightly more adult-oriented themes. The film essentially deals with a character as he deals with a mid-life crisis, a thematic element that will likely be above younger audiences. It is also a surprisingly elitist film, in which a central recurrence seems to be that not all people are created equal and that society should accept and embrace excellence. In a true sign of its success as a family film, however, “The Incredibles” is entertaining enough that deeper interpretations will probably be lost on children and better appreciated by adults. In fact, most viewers (of all ages) will be so engaged in the film that such concerns will likely be nullified as the audience becomes caught up in the film’s story. Surprisingly, the plot does not drag despite a nearly two-hour running time, an impressive feat for an animated feature.”The Incredibles” is faster-paced and more visually-kinetic than previous Pixar features. While the animation initially seems less lush than in their previous film “Finding Nemo,” a good portion of it takes place on a beautifully-animated “Jurassic Park”-esque island complete with volcano and waterfall. The animation style switches between gritty comic-book style pulpiness and colorful richness seamlessly, which further enhances the film’s superhero plot. The editing is faster and more robust than most animated features and several extremely-well executed action sequences throughout the film’s length keeps it from dragging.The voice-acting is excellent, with Nelson hitting the perfect blend of classic heroism, world-worn experience and blind enthusiasm. Other stand-outs include Jason Lee (Dogma, Almost Famous), who finds an appropriately crazed tone as the madman antagonist, and Holly Hunter as Elastigirl. Samuel L. Jackson, as the superhero best-friend Frozone, and Elizabeth Pena, as the mysterious Mirage, are both reduced to archetypes, which is unusual for a Pixar film, but the acting is good enough that it does not become a distraction. Jackson attacks his relatively small role with the enthusiasm that has become associated with the actor.Homages and parodies abound and “The Incredibles” has great fun with this; it is obvious that the filmmakers have a deep understanding and love of old superheros. The dangers of wearing capes are discussed, monologue-prone villains acknowledge their own long-windedness, and the conceit that a mere eye-covering protects secret identities is referenced; all of these clever allusions are presented with a knowing wink to the audience.Bird has made a wonderful and winning film that not only matches, but also exceeds his earlier animated effort. Despite a few minor quibbles, his feature succeeds on nearly every level. As for Pixar, they’ve raised their winning streak to 6-0 and, with “The Incredibles,” have delivered one of the most fun, engaging and consistently enjoyable pictures to come out of Hollywood since its own Finding Nemo. While in the long run, Pixar may not have made a movie as enduring (or enduringly popular) as “Toy Story” or “Finding Nemo,” they’ve still once-again proven its nigh-miraculous ability to provide top-notch animation, story and entertainment. This is a superb film.