Pixar’s latest swaps cod for capes, with an entertaining and beautifully designed take on the superhero genre. Nat Tunbridge looks at ‘The Incredibles’
Pixar’s follow up to the excellent ‘Finding Nemo’ is the brainchild of writer-director Brad Bird, who also acted as hyphen on ‘The Iron Giant’ five years ago. This time, however, instead of working from another source (in the latter case, Ted Hughes’ book) he’s developed the story himself, although the film clearly has some very obvious thematic antecedents, most obviously James Bond and the ‘Spy Kids’ movies.
Eager superhero Mr Incredible (Nelson) likes nothing more than doing his job: defeating evildoers, saving people and rescuing cats. His wife, Elastigirl (Hunter) is also a superhero, while their kids Violet (Vowell) and Dash (Fox) are still learning how to control their budding superpowers. Unfortunately in these perverse, litigious times the family’s simple good-hearted desire to help humanity is exactly what gets them into trouble, when a citizen Mr Incredible saves from plunging to certain death decides to sue him for infringing his rights, it precipitates a storm of lawsuits across the country as ungrateful and vindictive folk take legal action against their saviours. Soon, all superheroes, including Bob’s buddy Frozone (Jackson), are forbidden to use their superpowers and relocated by the Government under a Superhero Protection Program. Their days are over.
Consigned to a job as a loss adjuster at an insurance company, Mr Incredible – now just plain old Bob Parr – has to keep scratching away to make a living for his suburban family. Elastigirl – now just Helen Parr – is at home looking after Jack Jack, the new addition to the family, and the kids only use their powers to gain an upper hand at high school. When Bob loses his job for pummelling his corrupt boss into a pulp, things look grim for the Parrs. Then a shapely female agent called Mirage (Peña) contacts Bob with an intriguing proposition: undertake a dangerous mission to a mysterious island in order to disarm and immobilise a renegade combat robot. The job will pay well, and it’s for the good of all, pretty much…
‘The Incredibles’ departs from previous CG films in a number of ways: it’s long, at two hours the longest big-budget CG animated film to date and a bit too long to be honest. The multiple climaxes exhaust rather than thrill and many of the kids in the screening I attended were climbing over each other by the end. It’s also the first that I’ve seen to focus exclusively on human characters; no cute talking toys or fairytale characters here – the life lessons are literal and life is usually what’s at stake, a point made to the Parr kids very clearly by their ‘mom’ towards the film’s end. I also thought there was a lot of pretty intense, realistic violence – gunfire, missiles etc – for a film rated U; apparently it was rated PG in the US so I was surprised that the often censorious BBFC decided that parents shouldn’t be notified as to its content.
However, with all that being said, the film is also a fabulous-looking and extremely entertaining juggernaut. While the storyline isn’t as smooth or well-told as ‘Finding Nemo’, it’s certainly never less than funny and inventive. If the flesh tones of the characters don’t quite match the extraordinary, liver-spotted hyper-reality of ‘Shrek 2’, they’re appropriate for the stylistic approach Bird has adopted and the exquisite locations, vehicles and buildings are some of the most amazing I’ve seen in a movie, animated or not. The volcanic island where the wicked Syndrome makes his lair is a sprawling tropical environment complete with towering waterfalls, underground chambers and lush jungle; his empire features bubble cars speeding gently along slowly curving tracks, cavernous missile silos and a huge dining room with a backdrop of falling lava. It’s like the retro-futurist lovechild of Ken Adam and Gerry Anderson. There’s also some very funny characters, best of which is Super-designer Edna Mode (voiced by Bird himself), a bizarre cross between Edith Head and Edina Monsoon, who provides the family with some absolutely fabulous new costumes, dah-ling. With her twangy Southern tones Holly Hunter is a natural as the ultimate multi-tasking mum, while Jason Lee’s superb, hectoring turn as the villainous Syndrome also deserves plaudits. A great cast and a fun film.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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