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THE INCREDIBLES
U.S. Release Date: November 5, 2004
Distributor: Buena Vista
Director: Brad Bird
Writer: Brad Bird
Producer: John Lasseter (executive producer)
Composer: Michael Giacchino
Cast: Craig T. Nelson (Voice), Holly Hunter (Voice), Samuel L. Jackson (Voice), Brad Bird (Voice)
Running Time: 1 hour and 55 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG (action violence)

Natural Born Jetsons
by Scott Holleran

Pixar's exciting The Incredibles, though stained by bad ideas, is fun. Writer and director Brad Bird, who directed and co-wrote the classically animated and surprisingly powerful children's story The Iron Giant, delivers an action-packed fable with distinct characters. In today's bankrupt culture, it's an achievement. Those accustomed to random jokes and a stream of vulgarities may be downright bewildered.

Some of the usual blather seeps in. The world's superheroes are forced into retirement by frivolous lawsuits, a swipe that makes no sense since it looks like the movie happens in the Forties or Fifties. Fifteen years after hanging up their snazzy uniforms, superheroes Bob (voiced by Craig T. Nelson) and Helen (Holly Hunter), have settled in the suburbs, where they mask their superpowers.

Insurance claims adjuster Bob yearns for his days as super-strong Mr. Incredible. Sometimes he can't contain himself, blowing his cover in front of a tyke on a tricycle in the movie's funniest scene. Wife Helen, who had her own gig as an elasticized heroine, a couple of their super-kids (Sarah Vowell and Spencer Fox) and a baby round out the family. They have a superhero friend, too (Samuel L. Jackson in a pointless role).

Art designer Ralph Eggleston and production designer Lou Romano's angular, early 1960's modern design and composer Michael Giacchino's thrilling music complement each other and The Incredibles earns one's interest in the action, enhanced by Pixar animators' purposeful sense of motion. When we're not soaring over lush tropical jungles and gliding toward towering city skylines, we're doing battle with a Bondish villain at his elaborate island hideaway. Bird's happy family theme, that each individual must be his best, is loosely applied.

The Incredibles cops out with a Nietzschean version of Superman which suggests that one's best is inborn. Bird's philosophy speaks through Hunter's heroine, who, while coaching her self-conscious teenaged daughter in using superpowers, exhorts: "Don't think. It's in your blood." The volitional Iron Giant and his friend Hogarth, who saved the world with a Herculean act of free will, would disagree.

A few throwaway lines decry the age of mediocrity, but the notion that one's ability is innate—the villain is depicted as monstrous because he is self-made—looms and, coupled with the requisite notion of saving lives as a moral duty for "the greater good," it is something of a killjoy. The Incredibles being born incredible undercuts their appeal.

If the Incredibles are naturally fabulous, insurance companies are inherently immoral and the movie is strictly anti-business. There's the usual smear against making money, depicting those that profit as bad guys. As parents, Mr. and Mrs. Incredible could use a few sessions with Dr. Phil. Like Toy Story, this computer-generated fluff works because it doesn't feel like it's been ripped from a stand-up comic's routine; it tells a story.

In the absence of reality-based live action romanticism—fun, animated pictures like this will have to do. They offer creators like Brad Bird, who also provides the voice for a funny caricature named Edna Mode, the chance to play. With a warning about its philosophy, The Incredibles, released by Disney, is playful, plot-oriented animation.

Short Take
Paired with The Incredibles as a prelude, Pixar's Boundin' is a treat unto itself—a wonderfully animated and thoughtfully rendered lesson about unearned shame told in Bud Luckey's charming narration about a sheep. The musical nursery rhyme, Pixar's best and this reviewer's favorite to date, is a pure delight.

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DVD Notes
The two-disc collector's edition is loaded with stuff—and filler, too—including a new scene featuring baby Incredible Jack-Jack, which shows what happened with the babysitter. It's worth a few laughs, though the self-immolating infant bit gets creepy. Also included are audio commentary, deleted scenes, alternate opening, blunders and an informative feature centered on director Brad Bird. It's a generous product. Besides the picture, the best part is Bud Luckey's brilliant Boundin', which ought to be presented before The Incredibles as it was in theaters but appears on the second disc here. Still, Boundin' gets an audio commentary by the Montana dude Luckey, whom Pixar granted artistic freedom to create this perfect ditty, which deserves to be played over and over.


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