A Credible Oscar Candidate
In a year with no obvious front-runner in the race for Best Picture Oscar, it's no wonder this animated movie is being mentioned as a contender. The Incredibles could qualify in a year chock-full of quality films. In every respect, Pixar's comic adventure about a family of superheroes exemplifies its own theme -- the genuinely special always trump the ordinary.
Not only does the seemingly average Parr family live up to their dad's crime-fighting moniker, the folks at Pixar live up to their reputation as innovators. Considering their track record, the appeal of The Incredibles isn't hard to believe. Masterminded Brad Bird, it has the conceptual savvy and wit of both Toy Story and Monsters, Inc., plus the knack for blending familiar ingredients into a fresh whole that made Finding Nemo a blockbuster.
The relatively sophisticated storyline and sharp visuals will catch the fancy of adults even more than children, thereby putting to rest any doubts that the best family films are made primarily with parents in mind. There's ample material to entertain kids, yet the secret to the Pixar formula is substantive, actor-proof characters and seamless plotting, which everyone can appreciate, but which distinguishes their movies in the eyes of those who don't watch Nickelodeon round the clock. Parents will also be pleased that The Incredibles flaunts smart, tongue-in-cheek humor without being nasty or crass and without stooping to toilet humor.
More positively, this retro tale will hit late baby-boomers right between the eyes. Those versed in Ozzie and Harriet and Leave It to Beaver as well as Batman and The Brady Bunch will have a field day. With eminently relatable zeal, the movie taps into fears concerning various mid-life crises.
It begins in an unspecified year, in an urban center that design-wise harkens back to the dawn of the swinging '60s and is littered with celebrity superheroes. The Herculean Mr. Incredible (voiced by Craig T. Nelson) resists the aid of a wannabe hero lacking special powers, declaring, "I work alone." This blow-off proves troublesome down the road, but right now he's late for his wedding to a superhero called Elastigirl (Holly Hunter). Soon after the two crime-fighters get hitched there's an explosion of lawsuits by ungrateful, fortune-seeking victims that various superheroes have rescued. The financial burden is too great and the government bans superheroes.
Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl enter the "Superhero Relocation Program." Fast-forward fifteen years. As Mr. & Mrs. Bob Parr, they live with their children Violet, Dash, and Jack Jack in a suburban ranch house, suppressing their powers, struggling to fit in, and, in Bob's case, chomping at the bit to help people. His bureaucratic job at an insurance company isn't fulfilling and he and his buddy Lucius Best, a k a Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson), keep getting into trouble for acts of vigilantism. Bob's chance to stop living in the past comes when he's approached about a secret mission that takes him, and eventually the entire family, to a tropical island for exciting action courtesy of a villain named Syndrome (Jason Lee), the grown-up wannabe he dismissed early in the picture.
The credit for devising and executing this layered story goes to writer-director Brad Bird, who also lends his voice to the funniest character, Edna Mode or "E," a caustic fashion designer specializing in superpower couture. The Incredibles clearly springs from his singular vision and studios should take notice -- script by committee doesn't work.
The movie's only noticeable flaw is that it runs about ten minutes too long. This shouldn't prevent it from being placed on the top rung of family films. Receiving a major gold statue at the Academy Awards is a much bigger challenge, though not beyond the realm of possibility.
(Released by Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar; rated "PG" for action violence.)