By Vic Holtreman
Short version: A great, fun family film, but not quite as endearing as previous Pixar movies.
The Incredibles is the long anticipated film from the geniuses over at Pixar Animation. I'd been looking forward to this for a long time, and perhaps I'd seen one too many commercials because it didn't quite measure up to the likes of Finding Nemo and Toy Story.
The world is populated by many superheroes, saving the day whenever required. The most well known of these heroes is Mr. Incredible, who posseses super-strength, and is on the cover of many magazines and is making TV appearances due to his popularity. He's drives a car that transforms from mild mannered sedan to tricked out sportscar at the push of a button, and he's the type of guy who will stop to rescue a cat from a tree while on the way to catch getaway bankrobbers (who, of course, he catches as well).
A young kid who has no superpowers tries to tag along as his partner, but Mr. Incredible states repeatedly that he works alone. Junior does have a knack for inventing gizmos as demonstrated by the jet boots he uses to fly around. Still, it's no go as far as the big guy is concerned, and it's pretty obvious this will come back to haunt our hero.
The trouble starts when our hero saves someone who has leapt from the top of a building in a suicide attempt, and then stops a train full of passengers from crashing. Both parties sue him: Suicide guy because he didn't want to be saved and now has chronic pain, and the train passengers all have whiplash. Soon all superheroes come under fire and the public calls for the abolishment of superheroes. The funny bit here is that lawyers are the villains that bring down the heroes, but that'll be lost on the kiddies.
The government establishes the "Superhero Protection Program" so that these folks can melt into the common population. 15 years later, Mr. Incredible is stuck in a cubicle at an insurance company, still trying to do his part by advising clients how to navigate the system to get paid on their claims. His petty boss however is not happy about this and bosses around and berates our hero every chance he gets. Now married, with kids (all with super powers except for the baby) he feels the weight of responsibility but still yearns for the old days. We see his frustration build to the point where he snaps, just in time to receive a mysterious offer to go back into the superhero business (at triple his current salary).
For me, this is where the fun finally starts to kick in, but is also where it seems more "grown up" than previous Pixar movies. There is a serious James Bond feel to the film from this point on. The bad guy's lair look like it belongs to S.P.E.C.T.R.E., and overall the style of the movie is set to make it look like it takes place in the late 50's/early 60's.
It's great to watch Mr. Incredible go from overweight and unsure of himself back to a fit, commanding superhero. Of course most of this is going on behind his wife's back, and eventually she and the kids are thrown into the mix for a full-on family adventure.
My absolute favorite character in the film was Edna (voiced by writer/director Brad Bird), costume designer to superheroes and supermodels. She was great as a tell-it-like-it-is pint sized bulldozer who secretly yearns to get back to designing superhero costumes instead of clothes for whiney supermodels. Also great, was Frozone (voiced by Samuel L. Jackson) and Holly Hunter as Elastigirl.
There are lots of great moments in the movie, and one thing that kept popping into my head was that this was a great superhero movie, and that the upcoming Fantastic Four film would be awesome if it could approach this level of action, direction, and teamwork. What I found a bit lacking was that The Incredibles didn't seem to have quite as much "heart" as previous Pixar outings. Maybe it'll hit me more upon a second viewing as sometimes happens with animated CGI films. Sometimes I think I get so caught up in what it looks like that I miss out on other elements. I enjoyed Finding Nemo and Shrek much more upon repeated viewings.
Another thing that threw me off was the fact that scenes shown in commercials and trailers were not in the movie, or tweaked so that they had less impact. I kept expecting that hilarious scene where an overweight Mr. Incredible is trying to squeeze into his uniform, but it wasn't in the film. Another instance was an exchange between Frozone and his wife, which I thought was much funnier as edited in the commercial.
Despite these small nitpicks, this is still a great movie and suitable for the whole family down to the age of about 4 or so (due to a few intense action sequences) and I'm sure I'll be adding it to my DVD collection.