Published Nov 01, 2004With outsider Brad Bird (The Iron Giant) coming on board at Pixar to write and direct an all-human cast, there might have been some worried fans that wondered if the animation company was about to deliver their first mediocre film. Sceptics can relax though because not only is The Incredibles everything you would expect from this mind-blowing team, but it could very well be Pixar's best work to date.
After numerous lawsuits from the very public they've tried to save from danger, the "supers" of the world are forced to hang up their capes and join the work force as normal human beings, even using the aid of a witness protection program to help them blend in, and never using their powers in public for fear of being labelled outcasts. Bob Parr, who once was considered the greatest hero of them as Mr. Incredible, is now crunching numbers in a depressing insurance claims cubicle and battling traffic jams in his miniature car that barely carries his massive frame. With his bendable wife Helen (formerly Elastigirl) by his side, the pair teaches their three super-children not to display their hidden talents at school, which creates much stress in the household, as Bob sneaks out with his pal Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) late at night, listening to their police radio in hopes of reliving their youth.
After being fired from his dead-end job for losing his temper and throwing his despicable boss through several walls, Bob is "recruited" to conduct some top secret missions on a remote island; it's a chance he jumps at, as he gets to squeeze his gut into his faded costume once more and battle robots for a mysterious employer. All seems to be fine with his high-paying moonlighting but when disaster strikes it's up to Helen (Holly Hunter) and the children to save Bob from certain death, allowing for the rebirth of Elastigirl and the kids to finally test their caged-up powers, such as super-speed and invisibility.
Pixar has often shied away from using too many humans in their films because, as the creepy children of The Polar Express prove, creating realistic people through animation doesn't fly very well. The filmmakers know this, so we're instead treated with a very comic book cast that blends in well with the '60s spy feel that The Incredibles rides. Just when you thought they couldn't top the detailed fur of Monsters Inc. or the overall ocean life of Finding Nemo, the crew at Pixar have raised the bar yet again with flesh tones and stunning lighting effects. The look of The Incredibles is so jaw-dropping that you find yourself expecting any challenge to be overcome, and once you are no longer captivated by the animation, you fall back on the script and performances.
This is where Pixar blows the likes of Shrek clear out of the water. Even with go-to regulars Andrew Stanton and John Lasseter absent, Bird knows Pixar films don't survive on looks alone and has penned an action-packed, charming and humorous script that sits nicely alongside Stanton and Lasseter's masterpieces. The director even voices the fantastic Edna Mode, a pint-sized designer for superheroes. Though even with a few great performances it's Holly Hunter who steals the show as the true lead of The Incredibles, with her motherly warm tone and Elastigirl's determination to save the world while putting her family first.
The Incredibles is, well, incredible. You simply can't compete with the combination of strong stories and sensational visual effects that Pixar has provided us with in the last decade and, no matter how hard they try, no other studio can match the unique feel that these landmarks leave on you for days after you've seen them. (Disney/Buena Vista)