He used to be Mr Incredible (voice of Craig T. Nelson) 15 years ago, now he's a bored and flabby Mr Suburban insurance clerk. After an outbreak of incredible bad luck that turned the populace against superheros, the Incredible family went incognito. Mum Helen, previously Elastigirl, (Helen Hunt) is now feeding a toddler, their third child. The older ones Dash (Spencer Fox) and his big sister Violet (Sarah Vowell) also have secret superpowers, which come in handy once the family is accidentally propelled back into the job of saving the world. The danger comes from Syndrome (Jason Lee), a disenchanted fan of Mr Incredible, who has invented some serious weaponry to show the world what he's made of. But the family isn't always united or at peace with each other, under the strain of it all.
Review by Louise Keller:
Exploding with humour, ingenuity and a freshness that simply propels us into a happy state, The Incredibles is a super-fun adventure about superheroes who juggle family values with saving the world. Sheer magic is what writer/director Brad Bird has created with this story about superheroes who become lost in their secret identities, when they lose favour and are relegated to identity protection programs. Bird, who honed his craft on The Simpsons, made a splash in 1999 with The Iron Giant, a charming film about a robot from space who is befriended by a little boy.
No matter how many times you save the world, you always have to clean it up again, moans Mr Incredible, at his superhero peak. But although he always finds the time, times change attitudes, and law suits start flying when the rescued claim they never wanted rescuing in the first place. The Claims Department of an insurance company is where Mr Incredible is now literally stuck, with his generously expanding waistline and a tragic lack of purpose. Craig T. Nelson voices this giant-chinned, larger-than-life muscles on legs with all the diversity of a tough-guy who is really a pussy cat at heart. The kid who wanted to be his sidekick, but was rejected ('I like to work alone,') has grown up bearing a super grudge, making great fodder for an evil villain, with Jason Lee bringing more than a touch of hysteria to the role.
For Mr Incredible, life with his dreamgirl (the former ever-flexible Elastigirl) and his three kids, whose superpowers constantly need to be hidden, is not what he had dreamed of. What is the point of being Mr Incredible if you can't live up to your name? Holly Hunter voices the versatile Elastigirl with impeccable flair, as she reverts from her role as perfect wife and mother to fearless flexi-limbed one. How handy it must be to be able to convert to a parachute or boat on demand, and stretch arms and legs to plasticine dimensions. Of course their children have inherited super-genes and each has his own unique skill: teenager Violet flits in and out of an invisible state, Dash runs so fast it doesn't matter whether be land or water, and as for the baby, time will tell.
The very cool Samuel L. Jackson voices Frozone, the relocated hero with freezing powers, but wait till you meet Edna (voiced by Brad Bird himself) as the elite and scene stealing fashion designer to the superheroes. This tiny dynamo with a mid European accent complicated by an Asian touch designs outfits to enhance each speciality, and there's a hilarious sequence that explains the wardrobe malfunction potential for the humble cape.
A mix of James Bond, Mission Impossible and X-Men with a dash of the ridiculous, The Incredibles combines family mayhem with issues of life and death. With the family as the film's heart, there's an unbridled joy in watching these superhero characters display their oh-so-human character traits. From regaining self-esteem to being able to show what you can do, this is a film for every age. It's funny, endearing and positively inspiring.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It's one thing to have a droll idea for an animated movie about retired superheros dragged out of suburban lethargy to save the world - it's very much another to maintain the idea successfully as satisfying cinema for almost two hours. Brad Bird's scintillating and hilarious comedy does this - without a wasted second. Creative excellence like this gives Hollywood a good name again.
These animated characters are anatomically incomplete - they have no earholes or nostrils, for example - but their humanity surpasses what passes for humans in some movies. The premise is pretty simple, too, but the secret of the film's success is to build on the basic idea so that we are engaged with the characters and the story. What better than the characters becoming anything BUT superhuman, as far as their inter-personal relationships are concerned. The juxtaposition of suburban mum/dad and superhero is rich with comic possibilities; not least if you inject the pain of normal family friction.
This makes the normal dinner squabbles between the brats rather special - but totally recognisable. Bird has made the superhero's home as familiar as our own, with baby spluttering out his teaspoons of food, and the siblings fighting under the table. It works, too, when mum (Helen Hunt) begins to suspect that ex-Mr Incredible, now simply Bob the blob at the insurance company, is doing something he shouldn't, on his nights out with old buddy Lucius ... another ex-superhero, Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson). She suspects ... well, she doesn't know, but could it be another woman. Oh, if only! It's much worse.
And it's through their old costumier, the fashion designer Edna E Mode (Brad Bird) that Helen learns what's really going on, in the film's funniest sequence. Edna wears her black hair short in a square cut, with large black rimmed glasses and has a funny little (vaguely European) accent. Her dialogue is laugh out loud funny, a comedy routine that spoofs every creatively turbo charged designer - especially her illustrated argument against making capes for superheroes. Bird steals the film, almost, from himself. I want to see it all again, mostly to see and hear Edna ...
But there are many other highlights; riotous repartee between husband and wife during several family fights, a strikingly nasty baddie in Syndrome (Jason Lee), excellent shifts from comedy to drama and always a touch of pathos ... and a handful of James Bond-ish sequences to thrill us along the way as adventure meets comedy. There's no shortage of laughs, excitement, genuine drama and human humour in this computer-made but man-created entertainment spectacular.
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BRAD BIRD INTERVIEW
INCREDIBLES, THE (PG)
VOICES: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, Jason Lee, Wallace Shawn, Sarah Vowell, Spencer Fox, Brad Bird
DIRECTOR: Brad Bird
SCRIPT: Brad Bird
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Andrew Jimenez, Janet Lucroy
EDITOR: Stephen Schaffer
MUSIC: Michael Giacchino
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Lou Romano
RUNNING TIME: 115 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: BVI
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 26, 2004