Toon Talk: The Incredibles
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Disney Film & Video Reviews by Kirby C. Holt
A Disney/Pixar Film
The original title for the latest Pixar release was The Invincibles, and after viewing The Incredibles, one can see why they chose to save that particular moniker: with this, arguably the best super hero movie ever made, Pixar proves that they themselves are the invincible ones.
But, like the bravest and boldest of super team-ups, they didn’t do it on their own this time; unlike all their previous successes from the Oscar-winning Toy Story to the Oscar-winning Finding Nemo, for the first time Pixar has turned to a non-home grown animator to helm a feature: Brad Bird, director of one of the best animated films in recent years, The Iron Giant. And, akin to that modern classic, Bird brings his own unique retro-cool style and mature storytelling to the computer-animated medium, resulting in a zippy, non-sentimental adventure with a solid head on its brawny shoulders.
In the not too distant past, in a world not unlike or own, super heroes (cleverly dubbed ‘supers’) were always around to save the day, and the greatest of those heroes was Mr. Incredible (un-ironically voiced by Coach’s Craig T. Nelson). A bulky Boy Scout with the strength of a herd of elephants, Incredible (who, in his early days, bears a striking resemblance to Nemo director Andrew Stanton) fights the good fight, but ultimately to no avail: after a particularly active night of daring-do (which culminates in his wedding to fellow do-gooder Elastigirl, voiced with all the Southern spunk one expects and adores from Holly Hunter), he finds himself being sued by the very people he saved. This sets off a string of events (seen in faux-grainy newsreel footage, a Bird specialty) that ultimately leads to the government’s banning of supers, forcing them into a ‘relocation program’ that integrates them into ‘average, normal’ society.
Fast-forward fifteen years, and we find the erstwhile Mr. Incredible, Bob Parr, toiling away as an insurance adjuster in a cubicled Office Space setting. Between humiliations from his uncaring boss (voiced by Toy Story’s Rex, Wallace Shawn, yet resembling a shrunken William H. Macy) and the daily schlep from suburbia in a too-small compact car, Bob is slowly wasting away as a man, even while his girth is increasing to embarrassing proportions. His progressive ennui has put a strain on his home life, where he has grown increasingly distant to his wife (secret identity: Helen Parr) and children: daughter Violet (Sarah Vowell), stuck in that awkward pre-teen girl stage of spindly limbs and secret crushes, who has an ability that most in her situation would cherish, the ability to turn invisible; son Dash (Spencer Fox), whose overly-excitable and show-offy nature fuels his power to run really-really fast; and baby Jack-Jack, blissfully un-super powered … for the moment at least.
Desperately yearning for a return to past glories, Bob has taken to clandestine bouts of anonymous heroics, dragging along his best friend Lucius Best, the iceman formerly known as Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson, cleverly tweaking his own super-cool persona). This inadvertently brings them to the attention of the mysterious Mirage (Elizabeth Pena), the emissary of a mysterious figure who hires Bob to resurrect Mr. Incredible in order to defeat a destructive invention of his that has supposedly broken loose on a secret high tech island. Despite his out-of-shape status, Mr. Incredible defeats the battle ’bot, which spikes his self-esteem and reawakens the hero within, leading him to seek out Edna Mode (code-named ‘E’ in a clever nod to James Bondian lore), a diminutive couturier of indeterminate European origin whose former specialty was super hero costumes. (Brilliantly inspired, the character of Edna is obviously patterned after legendary Hollywood costume designer Edith Head … if played by Linda Hunt … but is actually voiced by director Bird himself.) Edna supplies Mr. Incredible with a new super suit (and secretly creates matching ones for the whole family as well), which he wears on his next mission, wherein it is revealed that his new boss is an unfriendly ghost from his own past, a rejected fan-boy now grown-up into a vengeful super-genius-turned-wannabe-hero named Syndrome (Kevin Smith alum Jason Lee, perfectly capturing the geeked out megalomania required), who has been using Mr. Incredible to advance his own ignoble means.