Thursday, November 04, 2004

The Incredibles:Living up to its name...
With all of the disgust and loathing dredged up by this week's political events, I forgot about reviewing The Incredibles. The memory of Monday night's screening had been almost completely wiped out by Tuesday night's disaster. Which is a shame, since The Incredibles is a witty, imaginative film. It's not as gag-loaded as Shrek or Shark Tale, as ready to wink at the audience for getting it. It's not sentimental like Monsters, Inc. And all of these things work to its advantage, even though at times the reworked evil-villain-with-jungle-island-hideout plot of its final actlooked so familiar that I though someone must have stolen storyboards for Thunderbirds. In spite of it all, The Incredibles makes a relatively familiar idea (superheroes who live mundane lives) actually work as both an action movie and a character piece.
It certainly helps that it's the work of a single writer and director, Brad Bird (who also directed The Iron Giant). While the Dreamworks animated features often seem like the work of a committee - and a committee that's more concerned poking the audience in the ribs while slipping in as much product placement as possible, The Incredibles, like Bird's previous feature, sticks to a strong narrative path, filmed in a style that toys with an ersatz nostalgic style (50s/60s suburbia) without deriding it. Yes, it's colorful and fun to watch, but the heart of the premise - that a superhero forced into retirement simply loves his job saving the world too much to ever really give it up -is brought to life more by Bird's writing and the fine vocal performances of Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter and Samuel L. Jackson. Sure, it's stunning (this is a Pixar film, after all, ) but it's also smart and believable.
The Incredibles isn't a masterpiece on the level of the Toy Story films, but it's a strong piece of animated work from a filmmaker with a distinctive voice. I won't go so far as to say that it offers an escape from the ghastly political news - or even suggest that we need a hero in this ugly time. See it for its own merits and let your judgment remain unsullied by the current political state.

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