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The Incredibles

The Incredibles [PG]
Pixar Studios, Running Time: 1:49
Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, Jason Lee

The Pixar formula for success is deceptively simple. Although Toy Story was the first full-length comuter-generated 3D animated movie, and its short features regularly feature award-winning, cutting-edge technical breakthroughs, Pixar's success has little to do with technology. Rather, Pixar produces wonderful movies because the people at Pixar recognize that their technology only serves a story. Pixar succeeds because they do what most of Hollywood fails to do: find or create good stories and compelling characters.

Thus, while The Incredibles features a family of superheroes, its charm rests in the fact that it is about superheroes only in the sense that Finding Nemo is about fish. That's not to say that there isn't plenty of superhero action to hold the attention of the younger viewer. There's plenty of homage to the X-Men and the Fantastic Four in particular. There's also more than a little lifted from classic James Bond flicks, including elements from the trilogy of Thunderball, Goldfinger and especially You Only Live Twice. Even the movie's score is heavily influenced by the John Barry scores for those movies.

However, even more than prior Pixar flicks, The Incredibles has plenty for the adult non-superhero fan. This may be due in part to the success of the Spider-Man franchise, which showed there is a broader market to be tapped when the mask is peeled back to reveal that superheroes are just as flawed as the rest of us, and that super powers are just as often a burden as they are a blessing. But it is also due to director Brad Bird, who joined Pixar after his prior studio's animation department collapsed around him during the making of his first film, the critically-acclaimed The Iron Giant. The Incredibles has the emotional depth of that film (perhaps more), along with some of the wackiness of Bird's work animating Krusty the Clown, Sideshow Bob and many more during the early run of The Simpsons. Indeed, Bird supplies the voice of the film's wackiest character, costume designer Edna Moe.

The movie's main charcters, by contrast, are more subtly drawn. Craig T. Nelson voices Robert Parr, a hero in retirement who struggles to balance his home life and his straight job against his desire to relive his glory days. Holly Hunter voices Helen Parr, Bob's wife, who is comfortable in her role as a stay-at-home mom and strives to be an anchor to her family, even as events conspire to put family stability out of reach. The voices of the Parr children escape me at the moment, but they do a convincing job as typical kids in extraordinary circumstances. This core makes The Incredibles as much about saving a family as it is about saving a city.

Other voices include Samuel L. Jackson and Jason Lee, who both do well with the lesser roles they are given (Interestingly, both men have some sort of prior connection to comics-related movies: Jackson in Unbreakable, Lee in Mallrats and Chasing Amy). Pixar voice veterans, including Wallace Shawn (Rex in Toy Story) and John Ratzenberger (Cliff from Cheers, who has worked on every Pixar movie) help round out the cast. However, my personal favorites are veteran Disney animators Ollie Johnson and the late Frank Thomas, as cameo voices with an inside joke about how "there's no school like the old school."

Ironically, there's even some pseudo-2D animation in the end credits, which play like a super-charged version of the oft-praised opening credits to Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can. It's a nice touch that shows Pixar's commitment to making all of the parts of their movies as entertaining as they can. I wish Pixar would make more pictures, but if the quality control they impose leaves the audience wanting more, it's hard to complain. The Incredibles will undoubtedly enjoy a long run at the box office; you'll be glad to see it more than once.


Added:  Sunday, October 15, 2006
Reviewer:  Karl
Score:
Related web link:  IMDB
hits: 2984
Language: eng

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