Comic relief
Nov. 3, 2004
Jeffrey K. Lyles
Staff Writer

Disney/Pixar

"The Incredibles" follows the adventures of a family of former superheroes who rediscover their powers.



'Incredibles' delivers the stuff of 'Nemo' and 'Monsters, Inc.'

Knowing that Walt Disney's latest computer-animated film is being handled by the geniuses at Pixar means you can count on it being a great movie in the grand tradition of "Toy Story," "Monsters, Inc." and "Finding Nemo." Pixar's got another soon-to-be classic with its brilliant take on superheroes, family and midlife crises in "The Incredibles."

Bob Parr (voiced by Craig T. Nelson, CBS' "The District") was once the dashing, suave and powerful Mr. Incredible. Adored by the city, idolized by children and respected by his fellow superheroes, Mr. Incredible was the face of the superhero movement.

That all came crashing down while he was on a routine call--thanks to the unwelcome assistance of his would-be sidekick Incrediboy, who ends up causing more harm than good, resulting in a ban of superheroes.

Fifteen years later, Bob is still not adjusting to regular life. Sure he's happily married to his superhero colleague, Elastigirl (Holly Hunter, "Little Black Book"), and has two children with superpowers of their own--Violet (Sarah Vowell) and Dash (Spencer Fox)--and a newborn. But he yearns for the days of fighting crime with his pal Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson, "Kill Bill, vol. 2") in the open instead of sneaking away pretending to be bowling.

He gets his chance when a mysterious agency asks him to test a secret weapon, although Bob finds out that he's in over his head, and the only thing that can save him is his family.

One of writer/director Brad Bird's ("The Iron Giant") influences for the Incredible family clearly is Marvel Comics' Fantastic Four, as the family possesses powers and personalities similar to Marvel's first dysfunctional family. Violet shares invisibility with the FF's Invisible Woman; Elastigirl has the same stretching power as Mr. Fantastic; Mr. Incredible carries the brute strength of The Thing; and Dash has the same hothead attitude as the Human Torch.

Many filmmakers would find a way to take jabs at the less sensible facets of their inspiration, but Bird appears to deeply respect the FF while creating his own version for a new generation.

The characters in "The Incredibles" are animated as if they were caricatures, so some have long, stretched-out faces while others have wide, almost football-sized heads to help make them more expressive and unique. This proves that even humans can be animated to look exciting, and that it doesn't take an animal or toy to look great in a computer-animated film.

In keeping with the Pixar tradition of creating memorable characters--which include Buzz Lightyear and Woody in "Toy Story" and Dory in "Finding Nemo"--the standout here has to be Edna (voiced by Bird), the fashion designer for the superheroes.

What she may lack in size, Edna more than makes up for in personality. In her rapid-fire fashion, she advises Bob on what the best-dressed hero is wearing these days.

Edna's tale of why superheroes wearing capes is a bad idea is hilariously wicked as we see that, while looking quite fashionable, the cape can also be a fatal accessory.

The one questionable aspect of the film is the number of deaths, inferred or otherwise, that occur in the film. No character is killed outright on screen, but there are a lot of explosions from which no one leaps away at the last minute, and some young viewers may get unnerved by seeing the skeleton of one superhero. These things are what probably garnered the PG rating rather than the usual G rating given to animated films.

With just two months left in the year, the statements "best film of the year" or "one of the year's must-see movies" have a lot more meaning than in February.

But even if it came out on New Year's Day, "The Incredibles" is so enjoyable that it would stand out. It's certainly the animated movie of the year and, for my money, one of the best times you'll have at the movies all year.