Film Fare...with Mark Moorehead
General Audiences: A
Ordinary suburban family become superheroes when evil comes a-knocking on their door. Witty animated feature with humor and spunk. Nothing objectionable.
Family Audiences: A
Best family film of the season. Riotous fun for virtually the entire family with exception of the little tykes due to the film’s length (almost 2 hours). Rated PG for action violence.
From the collective imaginations at Pixar, the makers of Monsters, Inc. and Finding Nemo, comes one of this year’s genuinely hilarious animated feature films. Our story takes place in age when the world is so litigious that superheroes become the targets of costly lawsuits and are forced to seek refuge under a government-sponsored superhero protection program.
Given new identities, the nation’s superheroes assume the lives of ordinary men with bulging bellies and ThighMaster-challenged women who raise their children in the sterile confines of suburbia. However, they do so at a cost.
Fifteen years after choosing self-imposed exile, Bob Parr (a.k.a. Mr. Incredible) finds the daily grind of his job at an insurance company mind numbing and depressing. He leads a life of quiet desperation as he struggles to maintain anonymity for the sake of his family while secretly moonlighting as a vigilante with best friend Frozone (voice by Samuel Jackson).
Bob’s wife Helen (the former flexible Elastigirl) also struggles internally with her decision to be a stay-at-home mom rather than stick with her previous career of saving lives.
However, she bends over backwards (literally and figuratively) in order to help her husband and keep the family together. This is pretty heavy stuff for a cartoon!
During one of Bob’s moonlighting excursions he succeeds in disabling a robotic spider for a mysterious and fabulously wealthy new boss at a James Bond-like island compound. His new benefactor is so impressed that he offers Bob a full time job.
Bob (voice by Craig Nelson) jumps at the chance to return to his glory days and be really useful. Unfortunately, his double life brings with it extra baggage in the form of evil villains, and soon his cover is blown by Helen (voice by Holly Hunter) and his equally gifted children Dash (voice by Spencer Fox) and Violet (voice by NPR weekly radio guest Sarah Vowell).
They in turn rally around and offer up their own special talents to help mom and dad thwart dastardly bad guys with equally impressive powers and gadgets.
Dash, true to his name, is fast on his feet, and Violet has the ability to become invisible or create a force field. With such unequal abilities, sibling rivalry is ever present. However, under intense pressure to put aside their differences in the face of an evil that threatens life as they know it, the Parr family comes together in a united front
What starts out as a more sophisticated version of The Simpsons evolves into a story more like the standard action-hero scenario that pits good against evil, a la the family in the Spy Kids series.
But this is, after all, a cartoon and kids didn’t come to see animated adults ponder the heavy subjects of suburban angst, alienation and midlife crisis. Everyone likes a good story, particularly one that is original, and that’s what we have here.
And, there’s a bonus to all the action and self examination. The vivid color and stylization of each scene is so impressive you might not catch some of the insightful anti-conformity dialog sprinkled about here and there. There’s one moment when mom tells Dash, “Everyone’s special”, and he answers, “Which is another way of saying no one is”.
In the case of The Incredibles, the Parr family discovers it’s okay to be unique, and that’s what we like about them.