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The Incredibles
2004 - PG - 115 Mins.
Director: Brad Bird
Producer: John Walker
Written By: Brad Bird
Starring: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, Jason Lee and Wallace Shawn
Review by: Bill King
Official Site: disney.go.com/disneypictures/incredibles/index.html
   

Look out! It's my mother-in-law!
Established nearly ten years ago as the pinnacle of modern animation, Pixar keeps reaffirming its lofty status with every new release, and "The Incredibles" is no exception. This remarkably entertaining and meaty motion picture is all eye candy and goofy entertainment for children, but underneath lies a biting denunciation on a number of contemporary topics, such as frivolous lawsuits, among others. Writer/director Brad Bird tackled Cold War fears with his amazing "The Iron Giant," and he proves here that he's a sly commentator as well as animator and storyteller.

The world in "The Incredibles" is one inhabited by superheroes of varying abilities. Lately, the populace has become fed up with their contributions, which usually result in expensive reconstruction of private and public property. When Mr. Incredible stops a train from falling off its destroyed tracks, the passengers sue over bodily injuries sustained from the rescue. The ingratitude they show isn't all that ridiculous. If there's a way to get money out of a situation, some people will exploit the opportunity, and lawyers are too eager to help. How else to explain a recent insane lawsuit against PayPal, or the lady suing McDonald's because the coffee was too hot? In this film, a man sues Mr. Incredible because he saved his life, which is something he didn't ask for.

After the latest round of heroic deeds, all superheroes are ordered into a protection program where they will blend in with society and use their powers no more. For Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson), this is a devastating blow. He enjoys doing good for people, and the thought of never using his super strength again sends him on the brink of depression. For the next 15 years, he will bounce from job to job, eventually ending up with an insurance company where the boss (Wallace Shawn) cares more for his stockholders than his customers. Mr. Incredible - real name Bob Parr - does what he can to help his clients, but his boss isn't too happy with his efforts.

Bob married Helen, who at one time was known as Elastigirl. They have three children and live in a suburban home with a white picket fence. Helen has learned to cope with her new life, but Bob longs for the glory days. At night, he and his old friend Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) listen to the police band to assist in fighting crime or rescuing victims. Bob's two older children are Dash (Spencer Fox) and Violet (Sarah Vowell), each with his own kind of power, but forbidden to use them.

A mysterious woman named Mirage (Elizabeth Peña) offers Bob a chance to be a hero again. An island is home to a government experiment gone haywire. A huge robot, made up of an impenetrable metal and capable of learning at a high rate of speed, is on the loose. Mr. Incredible must stop it. He does, but a larger threat surfaces when supervillain Syndrome (Jason Lee) acts on a grudge that he has held against Mr. Incredible for years.

Brad Bird could have told a straight superhero story, but there is such an exceptional amount of depth in the screenplay that it's pretty clear he wanted to do more. He reveals the frustrations of being a hero, as seen in the opening newsreel footage in which Mr. Incredible compares himself to a maid: "I just cleaned up this place! Can't you keep it clean for ten minutes!" The Parrs are prone to normal family squabbles, but the children's special abilities add another level of complications. Violet uses her invisibility powers to hide from the cutest guy in class, while Dash only wants to play sports, but his mother won't let him. His superpower is speed, and he would easily outrun anybody in school, giving him an unfair advantage. Now the questions arises over whether Dash's gifts should be curtailed out of fairness to the other students, or encouraged because that's what parents are supposed to do.

The 15-year period during which Bob Parr only moonlights as a hero can be viewed as his mid-life crisis. Like an athlete who looks back fondly at the prime of his career, Bob stares at his wall, decorated with plaques thanking him for his service. He can no longer take credit for performing heroic deeds, and out of lack of enthusiasm, he gains weight and starts losing his hair. Moonlighting as a hero gives him a temporary feeling of satisfaction, but it's not the same thing as saving the world in broad daylight. Unlike his wife, Bob actually encourages his son to use his speed, which could be interpreted as the father living his dream through his son.

"The Incredibles" has the same jokey feel of previous Pixar films, but it's probably the most mature work ever to come from the studio. Combining Brad Bird's vision with Pixar's animation was a stroke of genius. Doing so had the one-two punch of a high-quality script and superior animation. Though the film is loaded with subtext, what comes through the most is the excitement factor, and on that level the movie delivers splendidly.
 
Movie Guru Rating
An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant.
  4.5 out of 5 stars

 
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