The guys at Pixar have nailed it again. The Incredibles is a delightful story about a family of superheroes trying to fit in with normal society--that is, if they can keep their superpowers contained. Suffice to say, it isn't easy being incredible.
Superman had to do it; so did Spider-Man. Superheroes taking on secret civilian identities in order to disguise their superhuman-ness from the rest of the world (until they are needed to save it, of course) is just part of the routine. When a series of crippling lawsuits shuts the superhero program down, the secret identities of these folks--Bob Parr, a.k.a. Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson), his lovely wife, Helen, a.k.a. Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), Bob's pal Lucius, a.k.a. Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson)--become their only identities. Now, 15 years later, Bob, Helen, and their three kids live in relative anonymity in the suburbs--except they all still feel so different from rest of the world. Bob, in particular, has a tough time as a clock-punching insurance claims adjuster, having lost his sense of purpose in life. He finds some solace sneaking in a few secret rescues here and there with Frozone, but nothing seems to fill the void, not even his family. Until, that is, Bob gets a mysterious communication summoning him to a remote island for a top-secret assignment. Will Mr. Incredible get the chance to save the world again?
Pixar has collected another eclectic group of vocal talents to bring its creations to life. Nelson does an admirable job playing Bob/Mr. Incredible, battling boredom and a bulging waistline as he goes through a tough mid-life crisis, while Hunter infuses Helen/Elastigirl with a cutting intelligence as she makes a go at domesticity (sometimes employing her elastic powers to keep her brood in check). And what about kids born from superhuman parents? There's Violet (Sarah Vowell), a shy 13-year-old who seems to have acquired powers of invisibility as well as the ability to create force fields; 10-year-old Dash (Spencer Fox), a little hellion who can run like the wind, quite literally; and baby Jack-Jack, whose powers haven't quite materialized yet (but when they do, watch out!). As for the villain, Jason Lee (A Guy Thing) voices Syndrome, a gadget-wielding bad guy without any superpowers who looks a little like the Heat Miser from The Year Without a Santa Claus. And of course, there's the obligatory Pixar zinger; this time it's Edna Mode, a.k.a. ''E'' (voiced by director/writer Brad Bird), an eccentric superhero costume designer, who seems to be a cross between famed Hollywood costume designer Edith Head (big, thick glasses and all) and the diminutive Oscar-winning actress Linda Hunt. Good stuff.
The Incredibles proves that the well-oiled Pixar Animation machine truly know how to set the bar for original animated family films--stunning visuals, compelling and heartfelt narrative, well-drawn characters (literally and figuratively) and hilarious shenanigans. Writer/director Brad Bird was actually an outsider to the Pixar community when he pitched the idea of The Incredibles, but as the creative genius behind Warner Bros.' animated gem The Iron Giant, about a lonely boy finding a friend in a giant robot, Pixar knew talent when they saw it. Bird has once again crafted a convincing story with The Incredibles--this time about the power of family, who just happens to be superheroes. Still, dealing with humans in the real world, rather than the world of inanimate objects or animals is a relatively new thing for Pixar--and the film has a tough time getting started. The visuals are a given, with the animators doing a stupendous job characterizing human faces, but the action gets bogged down a bit by a rather lengthy back story of how Bob, Helen and the rest of the superheroes get into so much hot water. But as we get to know the entire Parr family, the momentum builds. Once on the island, watching the kids use their superpowers to full use for the first time in their lives is a fun bit of business, especially for Dash, who discovers he can actually run on top of water. Imagine being 10 and able to do that? I can see the video games now.
Slow to start, The Incredibles eventually captures all the right emotional beats, thumping superhero action and poignant moments to make the film, well, almost incredible.