|Rating: PG for Action Violence and Animated Hotties
Starring: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson
Directed By: Brad Bird
Anyone who knows me will be quick to point out that I’m usually the biggest opponent of animated cinema. It’s not that I “hate” animated films (although I often say that), but that I simply lose interest in the complete lack of reality involved in them. That is unless, of course, they have something that appeals to me on a completely unreal level. And, despite how much I wish it wasn’t true, superheroes are about as unreal as cinema can get.
It makes a lot of sense that The Incredibles, a cartoon approach to the superhero mythos, works so well. Live action films about people that can turn invisible, or have superhuman strength, or are elastic, are easy to dismiss with a skeptical eye as “cheesy.” But with the constraints of reality whisked away by a digital universe, The Incredibles is free to do whatever it wants with its characters, and it uses that freedom to capture its audience in almost every way.
Never has a Disney-produced, animated film captured a “straight” tone as well as this one does. The adventures of Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson), along with his family and friends, play out more like an action film than the comedic film we’ve come to expect from Pixar. It’s still family friendly, and it still packs a lot of laughs (thanks mostly to director Bird’s voice work as costume designer Edna, and to the cuteness of baby Jack Jack) but – make no mistake about it – this is a superhero film first and foremost.
And it’s a darn good one. The locales are vivid and awe-inspiring, the chases are hectic and engrossing, and the characters are molded through the strictest Hollywood superhero guidelines known to every man. The fact it embraces all of these hero clichés so well makes it play out more like a James Bond film than a children’s film at times, which is a unrealistic style that’s again embraced (and more importantly, its silliness depreciated) by the animated nature of the film.
One other key to the film’s greatness is the voice acting, which is as good as any I’ve seen in recent memory. Former “Coach” Nelson is the perfect everyman voice for Mr. Incredible, who needed to come off less like a superstar than an insurance agent. A big name could have ruined the role, but Nelson’s down-to-earth voice is exactly what the character needed. Holly Hunter also shines as Elastigirl; she’s perfectly able to be a sassy heroine one minute and to nail the role of concerned housewife in the next. Samuel L. Jackson gets in a few barbs as Frozone, though I’m sure his participation had to be limited to keep the film at a PG rating. Also giving welcome voices to small characters are John “Cliff Clavin” Ratzenberger and Wallace “Inconceivable” Shawn.
The Incredibles is not perfect, especially in the fact that its villain (Syndrome, voiced by Jason Lee) is so unforgettable and uninspired. Maybe the director wanted a vague, over-generalized type of villain (again, a Bond staple), but here he comes off as more of a plot device than an actual, interesting character. Oh well, at least he has innumerable henchmen to partake in the action scenes and a bombshell babe underling (yeah, even animated, she’s a babe), which are definitely welcome.
I won’t go the cheesy route and say the film is, in fact, incredible. But I also won’t recommend you miss seeing this one on the big screen. By embracing everything that’s cartoonish about superheroes, Brad Bird and company have created a sight to be seen that you’re not likely to regret viewing as soon as possible. If you’re looking for a movie experience that’ll keep you in awe and let your imagination run wild for a couple of hours, you probably won’t find a better film than The Incredibles this fall.