Craig T Nelson
Samuel L Jackson
Once one of the world’s top masked crime fighters, Bob Parr (aka Mr Incredible) fought evil and saved lives on a daily basis. That is, until the people he saved started suing him and other heroes for injuries inflicted during their rescues, snowballing to the point where the government had to take drastic measures.
Fifteen years later, Bob and his wife Helen (formerly known as Elastigirl) are still living with the effects of those measures: boring civilian life in the suburbs. Forced to live as mere mortals and lead all-too-ordinary lives, Bob and Helen live a day-to-day existence with their children Violet, Dash and newborn Jack Jack (each in possession of their own super powers but who go out of their way to appear “normal” and fit in).
As a clock-punching insurance man, the only thing Bob fights these days is boredom and a bulging waistline. Itching for action, the sidelined superhero gets his chance when a mysterious communication summons him to a remote island for a top-secret assignment.
After a few months of sneaking around and getting his superhero mojo back, Mr Incredible discovers that his new gig is actually a trap set by an old acquaintance and soon finds himself captured. Now, with Dad in danger and the fate of the world hanging in the balance, the family must come together and once again find the fantastic in their life.
The Incredibles offers everything that one has come to expect from a Pixar Studios film: outstanding animation that never overshadows but enhances all aspects of the production, a terrific ensemble voice cast that includes Craig T Nelson (as Mr Incredible), Holly Hunter (Elastigirl), Jason Lee (the evil Syndrome), Elizabeth Pena (Syndrome’s sidekick) and Samuel L. Jackson (as former superhero and family friend Frozone), a rich screenplay chock full of laughs and emotion and, something I could get used to very easily, no intrusive and unnecessary pop songs (Cough! Shrek! Cough!).
But even with all of those tried and true elements in place, The Incredibles manages to be unique and manages to stand apart from the rest of the computer-animated pack. With Brad Bird, the new kid on the Pixar block, handling the writing and directing duties, the film looks feels and emotionally resonates much differently and, for the adults in the audience, more effectively; than films such as Monsters Inc. or Finding Nemo did, an impressive feat considering how great both of those films turned out.
Bird, whose previous work included the great The Iron Giant (another film that hits home more for adults than kids) and something called The Simpsons, manages to pull off what a majority of action-adventure, espionage (this film owes more to the 1960s James Bond films more than anything else) or superhero (the first two Superman, X-Men and Spider-Man flicks notwithstanding) genre films have often failed to do: combine kick-ass action sequences with a story full of insight, humour and fleshed-out, fully-dimensional characters that quickly make you forget that you’re watching an animated feature.
Bird takes the time to carefully balance the commonplace with the, ahem, incredible in the Parr’s lives, not only Bob and Helen, but also Violet, Dash and even, in a hilarious third-act sequence, the infant John John. He gives each character a personal obstacle to overcome and an individual moment to shine before they come together to save the day.
He also takes such well-worn themes, such as outsiders attempting to fit into the ‘norm’ and the importance of families sticking together, and infuses, expands and gives them a fresh spin via the story, characters and some very sharp satire (as if his writing and directing isn’t enough of a triumph, Bird also turns in a terrific vocal performance as Edna Mode, costume designer of superheroes).
In the end, Bird and company find themselves hitting the cinematic jackpot in a way that few, if any, films have done so far in 2004. The Incredibles is one of those rare times where there is truly something to be had for everyone.