Rated PG - Running Time: 1:55 - Released 11/5/04

I remember a bit by Jerry Seinfeld about, “Why is it Superman always has to crash through the living room wall? Can’t he use a door like normal people?” Well, Disney/Pixar’s The Incredibles provides a possible answer to what would really happen if we had people like Superman, Spider-Man, and the Fantastic Four flying around among us nowadays, crashing through walls and destroying property in the noble pursuit of saving humanity: they’d be sued, imprisoned, and/or relieved of duty, and politely asked to let us all take care of ourselves. Until we really needed them. Right, personal injury attorneys?

The latest cartoon-animated masterpiece from Pixar, The Incredibles is a hilariously fun romp through the everyday lives of comic-book superheroes, and although it is only the second film written and directed by Brad Bird (whose debut was 1999’s underrated The Iron Giant), it shows the man knows what it takes to create a fun, colorful, and intelligent story with likable characters and cutting-edge humor. Talk about incredible!

We first meet the super-strong Mr. Incredible (voice of Craig T. Nelson) and incredibly limber Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), a.k.a. Bob and Helen Parr, when they are in their heyday (around the late 1950s), saving the population of Metroville from petty crooks and supervillains, alongside friends like Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson), who can create instant blizzards whenever necessary. Soon after they are married, however, when one too many buildings is destroyed in the process of their noble pursuits, the Incredibles and their superheroic friends begin to lose favor in the public eye and are forced to go into hiding. Bob gets a job at an insurance company, Helen becomes an at-home mom, and their three incredible children, teenage Violet (Sarah Vowell), who can disappear and create force fields, preteen Dash (Spencer Fox), who can run like the wind, and baby Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile/Maeve Andrews), whose powers are as yet unknown, try to live as inconspicuously as possible among the normals.

But it isn’t long before a new super-baddie, who calls himself Syndrome (Jason Lee), emerges with a plan to eliminate all the former heroes and claim the world as his own. As it turns out, Syndrome is actually Buddy Pine, who wanted to be Mr. Incredible’s sidekick back in the old days, but was repeatedly rebuffed. Though not imbued with superpowers, Buddy has grown to become an evil genius inventor, complete with a self-designed super suit, an elaborate, high-tech island hideaway, and a nearly invincible robot designed to crush humanity under its titanium footpads. Soon the entire Incredible family must work together to challenge Syndrome’s evil plans.

This movie would be a hoot even if it weren’t filled with spectacular visuals and fast-paced action. Besides the main plot line, there are subtle little background jokes and asides filling every scene, not to mention memorable characters like diminutive costume designer Edna “E” Mode (writer/director Bird), whose hilariously eccentric persona is based on the famous (now deceased) Oscar-winning Hollywood costume genius Edith Head. The disparity between Edna’s tiny frame and the amount of power she has over others is hysterical, and her huge, impeccably designed mansion is quite impressive as well.

The Incredibles is yet another incredible addition to the Pixar catalog, and yet another reason to believe that intelligent cinema is not dead. Even if it doesn’t involve any actual human beings on the screen. ****½

Copyright 2004 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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