The Incredibles

Expectations are extremely high for The Incredibles. People are expecting it to continue the streak of critical and commercial hits for Pixar. On this count, it is another success. It is not as good as Finding Nemo, but few films can be. What is particularly interesting is that Pixar tried something a little different. The Incredibles is the first film to focus on people, rather than animals, insects, monsters, or toys. It is the first film not rated G. It is also the first film not wholly developed by Pixar in-house talent. The honor goes to a guy named Brad Bird. Bird worked as animator for The Simpsons, and also made the wonderful film Iron Giant, that was sadly ignored by the public. As a follow-up to that film, The Incredibles has a lot to live up to. What Bird has done is taken the film in a new direction. This is still a great family film, but the subject matter is a bit more mature, and has a surprising amount of appeal to older people.

The animation looks great. It does not push any envelopes or have the sheer beauty of the underwater sequences of Finding Nemo, but there are some great water effects. The secret to every Pixar film, that many people have yet to discover, is that a good story combined with all-ages humor makes for a good film. It doesn't matter if the animation is hand-drawn or computer animated. Computer animation is nothing more than an aid in telling the story. In the past, Pixar shied away from animating humans, because they sometimes looked creepy. Bird fixed this by giving everybody exaggerated features. They look human, but look like cartoons. And storywise, Bird infuses a wealth of emotion into a story that is essentially a comic book adventure.

In Bird's world, superheroes fell victim to liability lawsuits. They are forced into hiding, going out at night to perform minor good deeds. Bob Parr (voiced by Craig T. Nelson, All Over Again, The Skulls) once was Mr. Incredible, a muscle-bound superhero. Now, he works a dead-end job in an insurance company, relegated to hiding his powers and helping people by telling them how to navigate through red tape. Parr is incredibly bored with his life, and feels worthless because he cannot use his powers. His once muscular physique gave way to a spare tire. His wife Helen (voiced by Holly Hunter, Little Black Book, Thirteen) gave up her role as Elastigirl in order to raise their children, Violet (voiced by NPR's Sarah Vowell), Dash (voiced by Spencer Fox), and Jack-Jack. Bird gave each family member powers related to their familial roles. As the provider, Bob wants to be able to protect everybody. Helen, as the mother, feels pulled in all directions, so she has stretching ability. Violet is the typical shy teenage girl. She always wants to hide, so she can literally turn invisible. Dash is a young bundle of energy, so he has the power of super speed. They are an ordinary family, but everybody happens to have superpowers.

What Bird did was create a fable about priorities. Bob and Helen both believed that the safety of their family was of the utmost importance. Helen became a full-time mom. Bob wavers between this and superheroics. He loves his family, but he also loves being able to save lives. This is complex stuff that usually never makes its way to a cartoon. Why? Kids aren't stupid. They can understand stuff like this. When a mysterious woman gives Bob the chance to again don the mantle of Mr. Incredible, he jumps at the chance. He is whisked off to a mysterious island, where an old foe captures him, forcing Helen to again take up the role of Elastigirl to rescue him. From this point on, The Incredibles turns into more of a standard action/adventure film, albeit a highly enjoyable one. They all turn to Edna Mode, the superhero tailor, hilariously voiced by Bird, for help. She gives them new costumes, and even includes some for Dash and Violet.

Everything boils down to emotions. At the core of every Pixar film is a film that can move people. The Incredibles does not surpass Finding Nemo or Iron Giant in this regard, but again, few films will. What Bird does is have Bob realize the importance of family. He loves his family, he just doesn't quite realize this. Once he does, he needs to reconcile his desire for their safety with their desire to fight evil alongside with him. Bird also gives Bob a sometimes childlike sense of enthusiasm, echoed in his children. The first time that Dash realizes he doesn't need to hide his powers is exhilarating. He lets go, pours on the speed, and feels a sense of freedom. This is the same feeling that Bob gets when he saves people's lives. Bird is able to capture these feelings on screen and convey them to the audience. They feel happy, sad, and exhilarated along with the characters. It's loads of fun, and even better, the entire family can enjoy it.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Good.
1 hour, 45 minutes, Rated PG for action violence.

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