I don’t know how Pixar do it, but they are always able to impress me. The only film of theirs I haven’t loved is the obvious cash grab/toy commercial, Cars 2. One of my favourite Pixar films is The Incredibles. I have always loved superheroes, and when you add the heart of Pixar to them, it was always going to be a winner.
The Incredibles follows the Parr family. Bob Parr (James T. Nelson) is a former superhero named Mr Incredible, who possesses super-strength. He was forced into hiding after one too many of his rescues caused major damage. His wife is Helen (Holly Hunter), also a former superhero, the super stretchy Elasti-Girl. Their children Violet and Dash have also developed super powers, just as their parents did. Violet is able to create force field and make herself invisible, while Dash has the ability to run really fast. The family try to live their life as a normal family, not letting the general public know their past, or that they possess any powers now. Bob is going through what you might describe as a mid-life crisis, and longs for the days when he was a hero. He eventually gets offered a job to come to a secluded island and fight a killer robot. Bob jumps at the chance, telling his family he is going on a business trip. Turns out the robot is controlled by one of Mr. Incredible’s former fans, who still feels sleighted after Mr. Incredible would not let him become his junior partner. The kid grew up to be the villain Syndrome (Jason Lee). He captures Bob on his island, and it is up to Elasti-Girl to come out of retirement and save her husband, with the help of their super powered children.
This is just a fun movie. It is exciting and entertaining for the whole family. There are some dark portions of the film, but most of the time it is a fun filled adventure. It reminds me a lot of the comic Watchmen, where heroes are forced to disappear because they end up causing too much damage. Watchmen is the furthest you can get from Disney, it is dark and gritty and definitely adults only in terms of subject matter. But Pixar is able to take this very grown up story and adapt it for their audience. It is what Pixar does so well. I also have to say how great Samuel L. Jackson is in this. He plays Mr. Incredible’s best friend, Frozone. He was one of the best characters in the film, largely because of Jackson’s voice work.
I am hanging out for a sequel to this film. There has been talk of one happening for years, Pixar even announced one was in development earlier this year. I hope they get around to making it one of these days. I am very excited to see what the Parr family have gotten up too since we last left them.
I knew The Incredibles was special when my dad not only wanted to see it in theaters, but didn’t fall asleep during it. The obvious appeal were the superheroes, a genre so well trod that you’d think even Pixar would have nothing new to add to it. But then you realize that this isn’t merely a movie about special powers and maniacal villains. It’s also about a midlife crisis, marital discord, the angst associated with growing up and growing older, and how one family struggles to keep itself together despite all these external forces. This is not a film you’d expect from Pixar, and yet it’s one of their strongest outings.
What sets The Incredibles apart from other animated films (even other Pixar ones), is that it never feels like it’s animated. I’ve already voiced my opinion that animation is not just for kids, and this movie certainly proves that. However, the only way I can really describe this film is adult, which would imply that other animated features are childish. I don’t think this is true, but I can’t deny that The Incredibles has more in common with a James Bond flick than it does Toy Story.
Much of the subject matter presented in this movie is very grown up. While other studios might have focused more on the Incredible kids (Violet, Dash, and Jack Jack), a lot of this film centers around the married relationship between Bob/Mr. Incredible and Helen/Elastigirl. Bob is presented as a bored, middle-aged husband in a soul sucking job. He relives his glory days by stopping crimes, a hobby he keeps secret from his wife. Meanwhile, Helen is busy trying to manage the family– settling them into a new home, keeping Dash out of trouble at school, dealing with moody teenage Violet– with little help from her husband. This is the sort of set up you’d find in any number of dramas, but it’s completely unexpected here. And yet, it’s all presented in a way that would make some sense to the younger audience even if it’s clearly aimed at their parents.
Finally, I’d be remiss to not talk about my favorite voice actor in this movie: Sarah Vowell as Violet Parr. Pixar has always been great with its casting, pulling big name talent from the very beginning. What I love about Violet’s casting is that it was so unconventional. Vowell is primarily a non-fiction writer, but it was her appearance on an episode of This American Life that brought her to the attention of The Incredibles filmmakers. This could have been a huge risk (Violet is not an unsubstantial role), but Vowell is absolutely perfect. It’s so much fun watching this movie knowing that one of my favorite authors is providing one of the voices.