A family of superheroes, while trying to live quietly in suburban life, are forced to save the world.
Just over a year ago I reviewed “Incredibles 2” for TMM when that film hit the theaters. I had every intention of reviewing the first “Incredibles” around that time as well, but, as the list of things to do for TMM seems to be ever-growing, it slipped away unwatched and unreviewed… until now! With our Pixar series under weigh I could think of no better time than now to revisit “The Incredibles”, and to my great delight, I’m happy to report this film still holds up.
“IT WILL BE BOLD! DRAMATIC!”
Fifteen years after superheroes have been forced into hiding by the government, a family of superheroes struggles to survive in the suburbs. Bob Par, formerly known as Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson, “Poltergeist”), works a boring, dead end job under his the watchful eyes of his bureaucrat boss Gilbert (Wallace Shawn, “The Princess Bride”), while his wife Helen, formerly known as Elastigirl (Holly Hunter, “Raising Arizona”) stays home to raise the baby and their two children Dash (Spencer Fox) and Violet (Sarah Vowell). Bob finds himself reliving the glory days; he goes out with his old friend Lucius (formerly known as Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson, “Captain Marvel”)) to scan police frequencies and stop petty crimes, but as he does, he attracts the attention of the mysterious Mirage (Elizabeth Pena, “Jacob’s Ladder”) whom works for an even more mysterious man (Jason Lee, “Dogma”) from Bob’s past.
In my review for “Incredibles 2” I mentioned briefly that the cinematic world that this film entered into was very different from the cinematic world we have today. Today there are six billion superhero franchises and another twelve billion in development, but in 2004 the superhero world was vastly unpopulated compared to today.
I find it funny that this film is able to approach the superhero genre with such a meta approach, particularly when the genres we now know it had only really seen its infancy. What do I mean by that? Well, this film is able to poke fun at what today have become well-worn tropes. We get a glimpse of this meta humor even in the opening scene where we watch our heroes interviewed candidly; they talk about what they like and don’t like about being superheroes. Perhaps one of my favorite jokes in the film comes in the first few minutes, when Mr. Incredible mentions that he gets tired of saving the world; “No matter how many times you save the world, it always seems to get back in jeopardy again. Sometimes I just want it to stay saved, you know, for a little bit? I feel like the maid! I just cleaned up this mess, can you keep it clean for ten minutes!” Then, immediately after this interviewing scene, Mr. Incredible engages in a chase that leads into another chase that leads into him foiling another crime; we get the sense that he’s not joking about the ridiculous amount of crimes he’s fighting, but that’s part of the humor of it too.
The overall story is great! While obviously most of the inspiration for the bulk of this film comes from 40s and 50s serial superheroes/detectives like “Flash Gordon” or “Dick Tracy”, I would say that the villain draws inspiration more from the 60s-70s Bond villains- the ones that have some of the more ridiculous gadgets and hideouts. I also loved the fact that we weren’t following a hero at the pique of his days when he’s just gotten the girl; we’re following him fifteen years later, after he’s gotten out of shape and the spark in his marriage is gone. I feel like there are more moments in this movie that are aimed directly at adults than most of Pixar’s other films. I’m not sure how many kids will appreciate the scene were Bob gets fired from his job and has a tiff with his boss, but I know a lot of adults will.
My favorite voice performance in this film actually comes from the director Brad Bird (director of “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol”); he plays Edna Mode, the fashion designer behind all of the super costumes. The sheer amount of energy he injects into the character is infectious; every time her character is on screen I had a big goofy smile on my face. Of course, Wallace Shawn’s voice is impossible to miss; his was probably my other most memorable performance.
The action is another thing that makes this film stand out. While the character’s superpowers are all things that we’ve seen before (Mr. Incredible is Superman, Elastigirl is Mr. Fantastic, Dash is Flash, and Violet is the Invisible Woman), the way that our characters use their powers is unique. I don’t think Mr. Fantastic ever turned himself into a floating raft, but I could be wrong. I think that when Dash first unleashes his full running speed and flies through the jungle on the island its one of the more exciting action scenes in any animated movie (it rivals the flying sequences in “How to Train Your Dragon”), and the moment when he runs over water, looks down, realizes that he’s running fast enough to stay afloat, and lets out a laugh never fails to put a smile on my face.
I do have to say that it is a touch convenient that though these kids have never been in any situation like this before, they somehow manage to not die and also use their powers with amazing prowess. There isn’t really any learning curve moment for these characters, and that does feel a little unbelievable. I mean, Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl at least had some practice back in the day, but these kids are pretty much clueless as to what to do in a combat situation. It’s a very small qualm, but I couldn’t help but wonder how these kids were such Mary Sues with their power.
This is an incredibly entertaining film that should delight the whole family. It’s filled with excitement, meta-humor, great characters, it boasts a fantastic soundtrack, and enough action to keep me coming back for more. If you haven’t already, I also recommend you check out “Incredibles 2”!
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