Saturday, November 13, 2004

Bonus Review: The Incredibles

"The Incredibles"
A Walt Disney/Pixar Animation Studios Film
Written and directed by Brad Bird
Starring Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, and Jason Lee
The Story: Fifteen years after being sued into retirement, a superhero and his family must re-don their tights to save the world.
The Good: This is the best movie I've seen all year. It's got a wonderful script, beautiful animation, excellent music, and an infectious sense of joy and wonder.
The formula could hardly fail: A Pixar movie about superheroes, helmed by the guy responsible for The Iron Giant. And what we get is a stunning exapmle of what superheroes can be and why we love them.
I have to give my best praise to the script. The characters come off as believable "supers" (as the film calls them), but also as believable people and a believable family. Watching Bob/Mr. Incredible go through the routine of the cublicle life is almost painful, and the scene in his home office (which he's turned into a shrine of "the golden age") has a great deal of poignancy. As a young prodigy and a socially awkward kid, I could sympathize with both Dash and Violet, which made my glee when they finally break out of their shells all the greater. Violet in particular is a great character with a perfect arc. And Helen/Elastigirl's rock-like presence and cool under fire makes her the perfect superhero soccer mom.
The story itself is notmuch new, but it's wonderfully executed. The "message" (can't have a Disney film without one of those) is one of embracing what makes one speical, and not settling for a life of mediocrity. It works as a real life message, but also one for the state of superhero comics. Bird clearly weighs in on the side that believes superhero stories should be unashamed to present themselves as the amazing and wonderful modern mythology that they are. He makes a compelling argument.
And speaking of allegory, Syndrome is the perfect villain for this film: a disgruntled fanboy. (Don't bitch about spoilers; this "surprise" couldn't be more telegraphed if it were in Morse Code). Jason Lee does a superb job vith the voicework here; his reading of the line "I've outgrown you" was particularly chilling.
Samuel L. Jackson and Wallace Shawn have supporting roles. Both are favorite actors of mine, and they're really good. I especially like Shawn's character, a great satire of the modern insurance industry.
There's plenty of fun stuff for superhero fans here: The "60 Minutes" style interview sequence, Bob and Frozone's comments about villains "monologuing," the henchmen's drinking game, and Edna Mode's costume shop (complete with a dissretation on why capes are a bad thing).
And the animation... man, Pixar blows itself out of the water here. There's plenty of great detail work (I especially like the ocean and ice effects), but the linchpin of the film is of course the action sequences, which are pulse-pounding and fun. By the time the heroes get into it, the audience is swept up right along with them. There's a great nanosecond pose that drew cheers from the crowd (lots of these, actually), and I heard more than a few utterances of "sweet," "nice," and other such praise from my fellow filmgoers. If I had to pick one, I'd say the big jungle fight scene is the best, but all the fights are up there with the best stuff from the comics. If Jack Kirby were alive, this is the kind of superhero movie he'd make.
In keeping with Pixar's track record, this is a movie that's got stuff for both kids and adults. I was at times thrilled, chilled, saddened, excited, and just plain in awe. You might want to take a cue from the Parr's and leave the infants and toddlers with a babysitter, but it's a great flick for ages 8 and up.
The Bad: I've only seen it once.
The Quote: "What are you waiting for?" "I dunno. Something amazing, I guess."
The Final Word: A brilliant, intelligent, and dare I say it, Incredible film for the whole family. See this or be condemned to suck.
The Grade: A+

1 comment:

Jane Vincent said...

i concur.
even better with pleasant company.