- once the bastard child of George Lucas, cast off in favor of CG
editing in live-action films - is an amazing bunch. In a few short years
they've taken us from the humble beginnings of
Monsters, Inc, past
and now on to
I have to say this: after Monsters, Inc
I didn't think that Pixar could top themselves. Then they kicked out
Finding Nemo, and I had to revise my expectations up again.
The Incredibles is yet another feather
in their cap. And the trailer for their next one, Cars, is equally
superb - showing signs of influence or similarities with
Gromit, but superb nonetheless. In fact, since this is the first
movie they've done where the entire cast was human, I'd say it's more
impressive than Nemo or Monsters Inc on that score alone. It's one thing
to anthropomorphize nonhuman creatures/objects, as they did so
wonderfully in the short
Luxo Jr; it's
quite another to make your characters human, and find that perfect
balance of caricature that they're likeable and well-acted while not
tripping into the
Valley like Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within and The
Polar Express did. (And yes, I'm basing that comment on the trailer
for Polar Express: the conductor is just CREEPY).
This is not going to be a spoiler-free review.
I can't do that, and do justice to it. If you want the short version,
here it is: Go See This Movie.
There. All settled? Good.
Like all Pixar movies, this one's got a short
in front of it. It's perhaps not their best short ever - I can't really
say that Boundin'
is the equal of
Geri's Game, or
For the Birds. Still, it's a nice, funny tale and it sets up The
Incredibles perfectly. Nothing like laughing at a shorn sheep with
buck teeth to set the mood.
The movie starts off as a strange reality show
vision, even to the point of frames being in the cut-down 4:3 film ratio
rather than fullscreen. Mr. Incredible ranting on camera about how he'd
like the world to stay saved for maybe just a little while after he
saves it, Frozone commenting on how women want to tell him their secret
identities to "strengthen the relationship", and Elastigirl making jokes
about how pathetic it would be to leave saving the world to the Men.
Thankfully, these are just the opening comments: the next segment is a
"normal" day in which Mr. Incredible saves a cat, stops a police car
chase by swatting the criminals' car with an uprooted tree, chases down
a burglar, engages in witty banter (and much flirting) with Elastigirl,
rescues a suicidal man who jumps from a skyscraper, and is stopped from
foiling a bank robbery by a kid named Buddy who wants to be his
sidekick, but just gets in the way. Then, he arrives late to his own
wedding (to Elastigirl, no less). A perfect start, something we'd expect
to see out of an old comic book.
Another montage, and we see what happened to
all the heroes - lawsuits. Mr. Incredible gets sued by the jumper for
"ruining his death"; the man didn't want to be saved, and suffered a
neck sprain in the rescue. He gets sued by people on a train he stopped
from crashing, for whiplash. Other heroes get sued as well, the
government spends millions of dollars in their defense, and then they're
all dropped into witness relocation programs and ordered not to use
their powers. While most of them were friends before the relocations,
they all as a consequence of relocations lose track of each other.
Eventually, the only hero Elastigirl and Incredible have contact with is
Frozone, who is Incredible's erstwhile bowling buddy.
Or at least that's what Elastigirl, now plain
Helen Parr, thinks. It's been 15 years, they have kids. Incredible, now
just Bob Parr, mild-mannered insurance adjuster, has gained a 50+ -inch
waist, while Elastigirl (perhaps due to her powers) hasn't changed much
at all. Their kids are showing signs of powers: Daschle "Dash" Parr, is
a speedster the likes of The Flash, while Violet Parr has gained limited
invisibility powers (which don't work on her clothes) and the ability to
summon spherical force-fields. The baby, Jack-Jack, hasn't come up with
anything yet other than the complete inability to keep baby food in his
mouth: in other words, he seems normal. Maybe.
Bob's unhappy, to put it mildly. He and Frozone
aren't really going bowling: they're parking in bowling alleys,
listening to police scanners, stopping petty crimes dressed in black
clothes and ski masks, and swapping stories from the "good old days"
that they've both told a hundred times. As an insurance adjuster, his
boss is constantly maligning and abusing him because his customers
actually get paid from their policies, and know what forms to fill out
and who to see when the insurance company tries to shut them out with a
loophole in the policies. He has to watch his strength, because he can
bend metal in his bare hands. Finally, in a fit of rage, he tosses his
boss through at least 6 walls and is fired.
That's when a girl named Mirage sends him a
message; an international corporation's sentry robot has have gone
haywire, and they're willing to hire him to stop it. The corporationt's
really the brainchild of a now-deranged Buddy, who's something of an
inventive genius. The "deranged" part comes in because he's been making
these robots to kill off heroes, hoping eventually to kill Incredible,
at which point he'll unleash one on a major city and "defeat" it a short
while later, becoming the most beloved hero of all time.
That's the storyline, or part of it. But it's
not the magic. Indeed, that portion of the storyline is secondary to the
genius of the movie. The real magic of The Incredibles is in the
characters; it's what Pixar has down to an art form, translating raw
human emotion into something that can be transmitted by their CG,
caricatured versions of reality that are always so inviting. It's Buddy,
calling himself Syndrome, congratulating Mr. Incredible for taking a
sneak attack while he was busy monologuing. It's the expressions of
rage, fury, and sadness on Incredible's face. It's the somewhat
dysfunctional nature of the teasing between Dash and his older sister
Violet: while theirs is played out with him moving at hyper-speed and
her smacking him with a force-field, the argument is ever so typical of
sibling rivalry. Like Finding Nemo, the genius of The
Incredibles is that it takes the most impressive things they could
do - elaborate volcano hideout, super powers, giant destructive robots,
Edna Mode the costume designer - and relegates them to the background.
Edna Mode's impressive, but she's only there as a plot point for Helen
Parr to find out that her husband hid his job loss from her, and she
doesn't know where he is. In the middle of rushing off to fight the
giant robot, Bob Parr is still trying to get his wife to stay out of the
action because he's afraid for her safety. The technology is secondary
to the story and characters, and the story and characters are superb.
I can only say again: Go see this movie.
It's worth it.
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