A review of “The Incredibles” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ***

Rating: PG for mildly adult situations

Run Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

 

 

I have an unyielding respect for the house that Pixar built.  Enormously talented animators working with cutting-edge technology and brilliant composition colored by a hip sensibility that knows no equal. The Incredibles is blessed with the fruits of these labors but fumbles its ingenuity.

Who wants to be Super all the time?  That’s the question facing a passel of Superheroes who find themselves members of the Superhero Relocation Program after the real world tires of their Super deeds.  Living among mere mortals, the Supers quietly and anonymously make the planet a better place to live.

Or not.  Bob Parr nee Mr. Incredible (voice of Craig T. Nelson) finds the life of the Everyman a study in mediocrity.  He pounds out insurance policies at an Everyman job and comes home at night to harried wife Helen (ex-Superhero Elastigirl voiced by Holly Hunter) and a trio of lively kids trained to keep their innate Super-powers under wraps. 

Bowling night for Bob and ex-Super pal Lucius Best aka Frozone (voice of Samuel L. Jackson) is a dreary excuse for blowing off steam by listening in on police scanners and lapping up a taste of the limelight.

The disappearance of an undercover Superhero advocate and a cloak-and-dagger plea for help are all it takes for Bob to relive his glory days.  The secret government program calls for Mr. Incredible to dust off the Super threads (thanks to an emergency visit to wickedly amusing Edith Head-ish designer Edna ‘E’ Mode) and dismantle a sinister weapon quickly and with finesse.  Bob’s still got game…or does he?

To this point The Incredibles is a clever meditation on marriage and middle-age bisected with a witty spin on fitting in. Helen senses her husband’s impatience but strives to hang on to their thinly-veiled anonymity while juggling pre-teens and spooning mashed foods into her toddler.  Elasticgirl indeed, stretching herself as thin as only a full-time wife and mother can.

The film’s pivotal act is a disappointment; a lengthy standard action scenario that pits good superheroes against bad and reeks of monotony. Hello Star Wars and James Bond; goodbye novelty. The Parr family bonds in ways they never imagined, unless of course they rented the DVD of Spy Kids.  Nice message, but one fraught with conventional derring-do and a less-than-fresh climax.

I question the wisdom of going outside the box (i.e. Pixar’s in-house genius) for directorial talent since The Incredibles lacks John Lassiter and company’s sage twinkle. On the other hand Brad Bird proffers a contemporary heroine (flirty, frazzled, and fabulously flexible Elastigirl) destined to replace Trinity (The Matrix) in my book.

Pixar knows technology inside and out and it shines.  From first frame to last the effects are flawlessly detailed and the design fabulously executed.  But for the unsatisfactory foray into routine conflict The Incredibles is affecting entertainment.