There are very few sure things in life. For the longest time I was convinced there were no sure things, but today, I feel confident to say there is at least one sure thing and that is, that Pixar makes exceptional movies. Not just good, not just great or phenomenal... exceptional. They are juggernauts of 3D Animation, the O.G.s of digital imaging and they've made yet another genius film.
THE INCREDIBLES starts in the heyday of the superhero, the comic book world of the pseudo 1950’s where Mr. Incredible (voiced by Craig T. Nelson) is happy to work in as much heroing as time allows. Bank robbers? Cats stuck in trees? No problem for the dashing Mr. Incredible. He even takes a moment to flirt with Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) before dashing back into the fray. We like this guy right off, because although he's a superhero, he somehow manages to stay just ahead by a tenuous finger hold of luck. And he's loved by the folks in the film, as Buddy, the president of the Mr. Incredible fan club is first to say, he know everything about him.
As the story unfolds however, public opinion sways and after saving someone who doesn't want to be saved Mr. Incredible and the Government are sued into submission and all the heroes are driven underground, forced to live a mediocre, normal life. It's an all too familiar feeling of shame as reality is echoed on screen, as today it's not uncommon for Doctors and Police Officers are often left at risk when doing their jobs.
Flash forward a few years and meet Bob Parr a cubical drone right out of 'Office Space'. Bob, who we already know as Mr. Incredible works as an Insurance adjuster and struggles to fit in, while Helen (Elastigirl) tries to keep a tight leash on Dashiell and Violet as they experience super power fueled growing pains. We learn the Parrs keep having to move as Bob sneaks out evenings for illicit Superheroing with Lucius Best aka Frozone (voiced by Samuel L. Jackson).
While the plot has echoes of the familiar the inversion of typical makes all the difference, now their Superhero Identities are the secret and they'd rather be mistaken as crooks than found out as 'Supers'. THE INCREDIBLES continues as Bob tries to relive his glory days and trouble in the form of Syndrome (Jason Lee) ratchets up the tension.
Acting wise it's a great cast. Nelson and Hunter have a sort of below the radar familiarity to them, so that when you hear them, you know them, they're old pals. Jason Lee is hilarious and menacing as Syndrome, with some great one liners, and just some evil little bits here and there. And Sam, well everyone loves Samuel L. Jackson. Sam's just the man.
For all their blockbusters, THE INCREDIBLES is by far the most adult Pixar film. There are seat gripping moments and episodes of pretty intense, realistic violence. For your standard hero film, of course he'll always come out on top, but there were many moments as I watched, where I wasn't quite sure what was going to happen. That Pixar can keep me guessing is commentary enough. Along with the many political themes, if you're one to take a serious look, there's lots to think about when you come out of the theater. And while the heroes and their powers might be somewhat familiar, there are moments of detail that never struck me before in my years as a comic book fan (Frozone, I'm looking at you here).
It's a beautiful movie, and for CG Animation, Pixar really does a nice bit of slight of hand. They are THE name, and with the possible exception of PDI the undisputed masters of the craft. But CG Animation is far from perfect still, and the most humanistic elements are often the most notable examples of what's wrong with this form of filmmaking. Pixar doesn't sweat it. The character designs are much more comic book and cartoon influenced, so Mr. Incredible resembles more than a bit, Bruce Timm's Batman rather than THE POLAR EXPRESS' freaky digital Tom Hanks clone. And yet, as they run around fighting some pretty intelligent henchmen (another brilliant addition) the sky, flora and water are amazingly realistic. Pixar's been on top of the water since a Bug's Life, and I didn't think you could really render it any more realistically, but they've just completely set a new standard in the background and world environments. I really enjoyed the physics of moment too, and with a superhero flick, they really get to show off in that department.
If you're wondering THE INCREDIBLES opened at $70.7 million dollars, the highest yet following NEMO's $70.3 and this on a low box office, non holiday weekend. An incredible achievement in itself since ticket sales are down. I think more and more, 3D animation is taking up the role of the film industry as it was in the 1930's, a whole new sort of studio system where everything is a bit like pioneering and the Wild West. Pixar makes some great salutes and hat tips in THE INCREDIBLES, from Edith Head, to James Bond, and classic comic books. Not to mention hilarious bits like Apocalyptic Henchmen Drinking Games.
It doesn't matter what kind of Movie-goer you are; Action fan? Comedy? Drama? THE INCREDIBLES is just a great movie filled with tension and humor. Do yourself a favor and see in theaters, and make a note to see every Pixar flick ever made, they're all exceptional.