From: Subject: Date: April 21, 2005 3:53:51 PM CDT Hankblog

Friday, November 12, 2004

Movie Review: The Incredibles
(2004) Starring - Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Jason Lee, Spencer Fox, Sarah Vowell, Samuel L. Jackson, Bill Bird; Director - Bill Bird; Screenplay - Bill Bird; Rated PG for some violence.

There's a part of me that's compelled to try and one up Websnark's twenty one word review with a four word review of my own.

Oh my F***ING god!!!!

But that would not even begin to scratch the surface of just how amazing this film is. I don't think I could cover it all in 10,000 words, but I will try and find some kind of ground somewhere in the middle to bring it all together.

What is The Incredibles?
Craig T. Nelson voices Mr. Incredible, aka Bob Parr, THE superhero in an unnamed city teeming with them. Mr. Incredible possesses super strength, a love for protecting the city in which he lives, and a passionate love for Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), the super heroine who will become his wife.

When an incident involving an over zealous fanboy named Buddy Pine (Jason Lee) sets in motion a chain reaction of events that forces the retirement of all so called "Supers", Mr. Incredible forces himself to try and adjust to life as a "regular" citizen of the world. Despite the love of his wife Helen/Elastigirl, and their three children, Mr. Incredible longs for the old days when he could make a positive difference in the world in which he lives.

When an opportunity to go back to being a Super presents itself in the form of an offer from a mysterious woman named Mirage (Elizabeth Pena), Mr. Incredible finds he may have bitten off more than he can chew. It's up to the efforts of his wife Elastigirl, their two gifted children Dash (Spencer Fox) and Violet (Sarah Vowell), and family friend Lucious Best, aka Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) to confront the mysterious Syndrome (also Jason Lee) and ultimately save the day.
OK, that all sounds like pretty standard super hero fare. What's so "Incredible" about it?
Oh lord, where to begin with this one. Let's start with the voice/character work.

Craig Nelson as Mr. Incredible is spot on in his portrayal of the character. In essence, he is every bit the do-gooder that Christopher Reeve's Superman was, but weighed down with the burdens and responsibilities of your average, middle-class, middle-American father/husband. As his frustrations with his involuntary "retirement" build up, the portrayal of it as a sort of mid-life crisis is something that's going to resonate with every parent/adult who brings children to see this movie. At the same time, hid frustration at being barred from trying to do good things is painted with wide enough a brush that any child is going to understand why he's frustrated, and root for him to be able to do what he wants to do.

In the same vein, Holly Hunter's Helen Parr/Elastigirl is an everymom that every viewer can relate to. Whereas Mr. Incredible is a big picture type of person, Elastigirl is the mother caught up in the details and how those little things can tear a family apart. As a mother who is quite literally stretched to her limits in every way, Hunter's voice lends a lot of credence and weight to her portrayal of Elastigirl.

In support of these two strong leads, all of the "secondary" characters have a chance to really stand out on their own merits. Fox's Dash Parr is every bit the budding young boy on the verge of starting to find out just what kind of man he could potentially be. Jason Lee comes out of the shadows of being pegged as a Kevin Smith regular and really stands on his own as Buddy Pine, and as Syndrome. He creates his own persona and runs with it beautifully. My personal favorite, Sarah Vowell's Violet comes across as the tortured teenager that she is without laying on the angst too heavily. Each of these characters could easily denigrate into the realm of stereotype. Yet each actor works hard to keep their character from falling into that trap, and really rounds their role out into something uniquely their own.

Even Samuel L. Jackson in limited screen time as Frozone/Lucious has a few choice moments that make you wish he had a whole lot more. And director Brad Bird's supporting contribution as Edna "E" Mode will leave you in stitches.
That's a lot of "super"latives. What about the story?
Brad Bird's script has every bit of the heart that his directorial debut The Iron Giant had and more. This is a story about finding yourself and making peace with what you find there. Every single one of the characters offers a valuable lesson with what they find and whether they decide to learn from those lessons or ignore them instead. The morals that come from that give the movie a degree of poignancy that I found resonated within me even more so than in any of Pixar's previous efforts.

When you combine that with animation that Pixar continues to refine and improve upon, you have a movie going experience that left me breathless both times that I have watched it, and seriously wanting more. I think I could see this film 10 times in a theater and come away with something new, enjoyable, and breathtaking every time.

There's so much attention to detail that for me rounds out the film into something beyond a standard family film. When Violet and Dash each have a moment that for them goes from simply knowing what they are able to do with their powers, to I just what that potential can hold, the moments very nearly brought tears to my eyes. Some may find this gross hyperbole, but I can honestly say that when these two children come to grips with their abilities, for me it was almost like seeing children of my own grow up. That is how attached I became to these characters, and I think it's the truest testament to the things Bird accomplished with his script.

Wow! That's a super sized heaping of praise. Anything about the film you found evil in the least?
Not a single thing. I know that I am coming off as over the top in my praise of this film. But I do not feel I can contain the exuberance I feel for this movie. I felt in conversation with a friend after my first screening that it was not an exaggeration to say that this movie ranks among the best super hero films ever. If Pixar is ever going to contend for a Best Picture Oscar, it should be for this movie, and I think it would be the ultimate the Academy could do in terms of justice, considering the lack of recognition Bird's previous effort in The Iron Giant received from the Academy.
Any other praise you want to pile on?
I don't know that there's anything else left to say. There is no question in my mind that this ranks among the best movies of the year, and ranking it against the other movies that really moved me is going to be very difficult. This one has so many things going for it, ranking it behind anything might be one of the most difficult challenges I will face as a reviewer. That's saying a lot.