Entertainment » Movies

The Incredibles

by David Foucher
EDGE Publisher
Friday Nov 5, 2004
"No capes, <i>dah</i>ling!"
"No capes, dahling!"  (Source:Buena Vista Pictures)

With ?The Incredibles,? Pixar has graduated from middle to high school. No longer pandering primarily to children (and the parents who get dragged to their films, despite the fact that a Pixar film is almost always delightful to watch), the animation studios have taken their craft from cartoon escalation to dramatic purpose. It?s a progression to which Dreamworks has aspired, and from which that studio backpedaled. It?s an intent reductive of anime, designed to mainstream highly intellectual drawn characterizations through technological innovation: that is, create three-dimensional characters realistic enough that they make adult animation palatable. And ?The Incredibles? nearly gets the formula right? but you still leave the film feeling that Pixar has left something on the table.

The story surrounds a small bevy of aging superheroes: Bob Parr (?Mr. Incredible,? voiced by Craig T. Nelson), his wife Helen (?Elastigirl,? voiced by Holly Hunter), and their friend ?Frozone? (voiced by the ultra-cool Samuel L. Jackson). In the first of a series of twists that pay homage to stories as diverse as ?X-Men,? ?Spiderman,? and ?The Thunderbirds,? the superheros fall into disgrace after a series of expensive lawsuits brought by those who wish NOT to be saved, and they quietly learn to sublimate their powers in the confines of regular homes, regular jobs? albeit not regular families. Bob and Helen have two ?special? children, Dash and Violet, who prove challenging to a sedentary way of life. After fifteen years working at an insurance desk, Bob itches to throw off the ?spare tire? and return to saving lives ? and once opportunity knocks, he knocks right back.

What?s eminently great about ?The Incredibles? is the story just described; it speaks to acceptance, self-hatred, family values and the complex morality of modern society. The characters are fleshed WAY out ? no clownfish with a simple emotional complex on a simple mission here ? and they?re more expressive than in any Pixar film (they might not be nearly so expressive as the animated characters in ?The Polar Express,? but there is plenty of room for pure performance capture as well as the unique creation that is a Pixar character). At points, you can feel the movie stretching in the same sense Elastigirl does, to encompass new ideals of storytelling in a format once reserved for electronic babysitting on Saturday mornings. To this end, the achievement of ?The Incredibles? lives up to its name.

But the sad fact remains: it just isn?t funny enough. Despite a scene-stealing cameo by director Brad Bird in the role of Edna Mode, the dimunitive fashion diva who designs wardrobe for superheros from the comfort of her high-security mansion in between lectures on supernatural couture (?no capes, dahling?), the film needles too deeply into the emotional turmoil of a family struggling through isolation and growing pains; in doing so, Pixar largely left behind their hallmark of comedy. Their films haven?t just been funny ? they?ve been drop-dead funny. And there won?t be an audience member emerging from ?The Incredibles? who isn?t wondering why drama that simultaneously tenses you and tickles you is conspicuously absent. Frankly, the best films do both; and in the creation of this flick, Pixar didn?t do their best.

David Foucher is the CEO of the EDGE Media Network and Pride Labs LLC, is a member of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalist Association, and is accredited with the Online Society of Film Critics. David lives with his daughter in Dedham MA.

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