Known for single-handedly creating the genre of
computer-animated movies with the groundbreaking “Toy
Story” nine years ago, Pixar has had a considerable rise
since Buzz and Woody took the world by storm. Now a recognizable
brand name associated with spectacular family films, it would seem
nearly impossible for the studio to craft a worthy follow-up to its
beloved, Oscar-winning smash “Finding Nemo.” Somehow
Pixar outdid itself again. The studio’s latest offering,
“The Incredibles,” is a consistently entertaining
effort that not only ranks as one of the studio’s best, but
as one of 2004’s top movies.
Mr. Incredible, whose secret identity is Bob Parr (Craig T.
Nelson, TV’s “Coach”), used to be one of the most
popular “supers” (superheroes) around. With a fervor
for fighting crime and helping the innocent, Mr. Incredible’s
life — as well as the lives of his powered peers — came
to an abrupt halt after a series of lawsuits from the public.
Forced into a witness protection program by the government, these
once admired heroes had no choice but to become regular, ordinary
citizens. Fifteen years after hanging up his supersuit for good,
Bob leads a boring life in the suburbs with his family and works as
an insurance claims adjuster. Despite the support from his wife
Helen (Holly Hunter) and their three children, Bob can’t help
but feel disappointed that the glory days are gone. However, Bob
soon begins to receive secret messages that give him the chance to
fight crime again.
Written and directed under the sharp eye of Brad Bird
(“The Iron Giant”), “The Incredibles” gets
it right by refusing to stray from Pixar’s well-tested
formula. The movie’s most important elements are its unique,
well-developed characters and an intricate, original storyline.
Bird ensures that the film flows smoothly, as each scene means
something in relation to the characters’ lives or the plot as
a whole. From the brilliant prologue to the incredibly engrossing
finale, Bird hones a consistent tone throughout that is filled with
humor, excitement and a pure heart.
Surprisingly, “The Incredibles” represents an
evolution of Pixar’s conventions and the animation genre in
the best possible sense. This is clearly Pixar’s most mature
film to date. Other than the jaw-dropping, brilliantly staged
action sequences that rival live-action blockbusters, “The
Incredibles” doesn’t shy away from more adult material
that will fly right over the heads of kids. Other than the subtle
sexual innuendo, the more human problems the Parrs face probably
won’t register with younger audiences. Thankfully though, the
story offers universal themes such as the importance of family
without being preachy or overbearing. Moreover, the laughs are
clever and fit organically into the film’s story. It’s
very refreshing to have an animated movie where the humor
isn’t just pop culture references.
One of Pixar’s trademarks is casting distinct voice talent
with actors are able to disappear into their roles, instead of
having well-known voices that are recognizable and distracting.
Nelson fits the bill perfectly as Bob. Embodying the
character’s strength and confidence when he becomes Mr.
Incredible, Nelson also makes the protagonist melancholy and
vulnerable when he’s just a regular guy. Holly Hunter’s
warm, distinct voice works remarkably well as Helen; and Jason Lee
is an inspired choice to play Syndrome, nailing the villain’s
voice with much passion and enthusiasm.
At nearly two hours, “The Incredibles” is
Pixar’s longest film yet. Unfortunately, the time goes by way
too fast — it’s impossible not to get sucked in by what
the film has to offer. What makes “The Incredibles” so
satisfyin is that it really has something for everybody, anchored
by a meaningful narrative that is always exciting and never drags.
While the holiday season is a competitive time for family movies,
it is hard to imagine that there will be a more engaging, fun and
creative film for all ages this year.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars