The Incredibles, Pixar’s latest, smacked of countless other productions: other Pixar films, other superhero flicks, other secret-agent-with-latest-technology movies. But somehow it was able to set an original tone that captivated me.
Granted, for a college student, I am a fairly hard-core animated movie fan. Monsters, Inc. is one of my all-time favorites, right alongside The Emperor’s New Groove. I’m not ashamed to see cartoons on the big screen despite my advanced age of 21.
That disclaimer aside, let’s get back to The Incredibles. Unlike some of Pixar’s creations, which seemed to pull out entirely new story lines, this movie merely put a twist on other favorite films. A superhero family, forced into hiding because of an apparent lack of a Good Samaritan law, deals with mundane struggles until heeding the call to save the world.
The look into the personal problems of superheroes has become a popular theme lately, with both Spiderman films and Daredevil giving audiences what they want.
The movie touches on the different struggles of the members of the Incredible family: the teenage daughter’s desire for normalcy, the son’s desire to succeed and the father’s frustration with his dead-end job. Taken individually, these could have been turned into run-of-the-mill, struggle-of-the-hero movies. Instead, The Incredibles concentrates on a new aspect of superhero struggle: that of the family.
“Our parents’ lives could be in danger – or worse, their marriage!” the daughter cries in one scene.
Beyond the plot, the movie offers plenty of other things to rave about. I loved the look of the film, which didn’t try to imitate realism as some animated movies have taken to doing. Instead, it remained very stylized.
At times I felt like I was watching claymation; at other times, it seemed the characters were dolls being posed in stop-action cinematography. The humorous proportions of the characters – from Mr. Incredible’s enormous frame to the diminutive fashion designer – made them more like caricatures.
I was also impressed with the movie’s ability to create atmosphere. I felt the mugginess of the jungle and the heat of the lava. I could feel the chill of the wineglass against my lips as the characters dined.
The era and location of the story seemed impossible to pin down. At first it felt almost 1950s; the fun new gadgets pointed to a futuristic film. Occasionally it radiated a European flair, while other scenes assured me we were squarely in American suburbia. But these details were irrelevant to enjoying the action.
The characters were lovable, if a little one-dimensional. I didn’t feel like there were many surprises hiding behind the first impressions of the Incredible family – they seemed to be emphasizing their normalcy as a worried mom or troublemaking brother, even if these molds were stretched a bit to accommodate their special powers.
My favorite character was the fashion designer Edna, who stole the show with her sparkling humor and overdone accent.
Though the characters were a bit flat and the plot fairly standard, The Incredibles was still a fun ride. Its pace was occasionally frenzied but the comedic timing was always perfect. And, like every good animated movie, it had a feel-good lesson to tie up the loose ends.
4 out of 5 stars