The Incredibles

*****

Reviewed by: Scott Macdonald

The Incredibles
"The best film of 2004 - and the best superhero movie ever!"

"Well, what are you waiting for?" - Mr. Incredible

"Oh, I don't know. Something amazing, I guess." - Kid on a tricycle

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Pixar Animation Studios continues its dazzling and inventive series of animated features, improving technologically and expanding their storytelling palette each time. Although choosing which films I prefer is like choosing which four star film I like least, as each of their films broadens what they can do and what they are willing to do in terms of style, content and pure imagination.

The Incredibles is a riveting entertainment, with danger, excitement, intensity, and (gasp!) a body count, torture and explosions well into double figures. This is a U-rated family feature with a pleasant bite.

The Parrs are no average family: they are a family with superhero gifts. Unfortunately, they and their superhero compatriots have been ostracised, due to a cheerfully satirised lawsuit culture, and are hidden from the populace by MiB figures, who relocate them time after time when their powers are detected. Superhero fanboys are mocked and taken to the brilliantly twisted psychological extreme by Syndrome (Jason Lee), the ultimate fan of Mr I.

The first auteur movie from Pixar has its creator, Brad Bird (The Iron Giant), crafting a set of marvellously delineated and realised characters. Mr Incredible (Craig T Nelson) is best described as a walking tank with a mid-life crisis. He's the breadwinner of the family, barely squeezing into his insurance salesman cube, while catching up a little illicit superhero work after hours with his buddy Frozone (Samuel L Jackson). I don't think I've ever seen such a wonderfully acute caricature of the workingman's psyche in an animated feature.

Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), the ultra-flexible - in the figurative and quite literal sense - mother, with a little of Katharine Hepburn's sexiness and sass under the mask, takes care of the children, Dash and Violet and little Jack-Jack, the baby. It is to our sincere relish when they're able to unleash their super powers and use their skills for the good of the family and the adventure.

Each character's gifts reflect their personalities - Jack-Jack's is unknown, even to him - and I adored the way they are well developed in the first hour. I shall look on for years with pleasure at the classic dining room scene where the family argue and all hell breaks loose. Like so many things in The Incredibles, no matter how fantastic they get, the more they remain like every other dysfunctional family. They love each other and aggravate each other in equal measure. This is the heart of the story - and there is no moment in the movie where we're ever in doubt of it.

Did I say adventure? Oh, yes. James Bond never had it so hard. Homages to 007 are aplenty, the Goldfinger lasers and torture table at Edna's (Brad Bird, stealing every scene he's in) costume design palace - oh, the anti-cape montage, another hysterical masterstroke - the Thunderball conference room and riffs of other Ken Adam production design works.

The movie works sincerely to entertain, with a clear plot and invention at its core. Rare is the film where I'm sore from grinning at the marvellously executed action and well-conceived storylines. I shall spoil little for you, since the trailers have managed to keep a tight lid on the Pandora's box of villainy and excitement. And as the stakes get higher, the action remains beautifully staged and edited, along with one of the finest action and adventure music scores in years.

The Incredibles is the best CG animated caricature of humans to this point. It's not supposed to look real, but the lifelike subtlety in the animators' performance convinces us that there is indeed a character under the technical gubbins. All - not just computer - animation uses exaggeration to force a logical and artistic expression of what is intended to be brought to the table, story-wise, to distil the essence of what is being told. Indeed, why strain for absolute realism when live action can do it so much easier? There may be an aesthetic pleasure at noticing realistic mimicry, but pointlessness and irrelevancy lies that way.

Just look at the delight on Dash's face in his chase scene towards the climax, when he realises the extent of his powers and the joyous chuckle he gives himself. The surprise of his own abilities becomes the best moment in the movie.

In a film full of character treasures, part of the joy of being a passive participant is seeing how many you can dig up. Bird's love for the medium is so complete, it's impossible not to share - so we surrender, oh so willingly.

The Incredibles is the best film of 2004 - and the best superhero movie ever.

Reviewed on: 13 Mar 2005
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The Incredibles packshot
The family life of superheroes, living incognito in the 'burbs, while saving the city from destruction.
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Read more The Incredibles reviews:

Angus Wolfe Murray *****
Jennie Kermode ****1/2
Josh Morrall ****

Director: Brad Bird

Writer: Brad Bird

Starring: voices of Craig T Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L Jackson, Jason Lee, Dominique Louis, Teddy Newton, Jean Sincere, Spencer Fox, Sarah Vowell, Wallace Shawn

Year: 2004

Runtime: 121 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: US

Festivals:

Glasgow 2015

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