The Incredibles (2004)

Being a sucker for Pixar movies, I tried to see this on the opening day, the very first show, before the crowds flooded in, but I was late. So I gave this movie about 10 days, to dissipate the hype, and cool off the madness. And after having seen it, I wish I saw it on the opening day – so I can tell everyone I knew just how good and delicious-looking the movie is. This is big, expensive, but well put together film, and is worth your time, and your attention. Check it out this very weekend, and then go out and buy it on DVD when it comes out. Your kids (and some friends) will thank you for it.

I rarely eat or even snack at the movies, but this past Sunday I made an exception – I figure I’m in a group of people already (I went with my wife and two friends), there will be snacks anyway, why try to make a point, if I could just go with the flow and stuff my face with unhealthy junk, simply because everyone around me does the same. Well, lemme tell ya, those fries just didn’t sit well in me. Sure, the greasy warm sticks of a fired vegetable (supposedly) went down in no time, but I kept wanting to wipe my hands and wash my face the whole movie. Never had that sensation at the theater before. Must have been the film – I subconsciously couldn’t believe how polished, clean and crisp it looked.

Maybe this preface has absolutely no point, but I’ll try to drill it down anyway. The initial feel of the film (that’s maintained throughout, thank goodness), is clean, polished lines, the textures that beg to be touched, the sound that’s crisp and well-delivered. Sounds orchestrated, fake, unreal, but I bought it right away – it’s a cartoon, after all. And in a Pixar cartoon everything must follow the visual rules established from the first frame – sharp, web-friendly colors, realistic physics (to a point), and the clarity of the world that’s shown on the screen. It was just a marvel to watch and hear this world turn, exist, develop. And that’s just the look and the sound. Should I really go on salivating?

The basic story is unfortunately not new – we’ve seen this before. A family of superheroes. A few twists are very pleasant – EVERYONE in the family has superpowers, just not immediately obvious. And, to make things different from the 10-20 super-hero movies we’ve been exposed to in the last 3 years – in this world, the heroes are banished, forced to live as regular citizens, because their powers do cause damage (a few misguided lawsuits, and a good deed will go punished). Actually, this theme that’s mentioned a few times was a little too harsh in a cartoon. Also, the fact that the head of the family, Mr Incredible, works in an insurance company that bluntly refuses to pay the claims is a little too mature of a topic in a cartoon. But maybe it’s a good idea to bring up the realities of today’s society into kids’ movies. Certainly keeps things relevant.

These departures from a tired genre give way to great plot devices that actually make sense. Heroes and their lairs would have to be well-hidden and secured, if they’re banished. The villain wants to become a hero, because it will bring media attention, love, recognition, all the celebrity qualities that “true” heroes don’t really need in their lives. The monster will be easy-to-defeat (because it was built by a vain, pretentious villain), even though it’s trained to be the ultimate killing machine throughout the movie. And another device that worked phenomenally for True Lies – no matter what problems spouses may have, they immediately jump into action, understand each other with a glance, and can withstand any misfortune, even though a minute ago they were fighting – that’s the power of companionship.

All this may sound silly, but it adds up to a cartoon that’s more realistic, and more importantly, BELIEVABLE than most movies that “are based on a true story”. That’s an accomplishment for a cartoon – to actually be realistic, instead of just wanting to be realistic. Sure, the characters get shot, burned, sawn, squashed, beaten and frozen. That’s what cartoons have been doing for decades. We can all agree on that. But now they have a purpose, real dimensions, migraines. Similarly to Finding Nemo, The Incredibles takes a fantastic story, and makes it human, makes it possible. And yet, it’s just do sharp and beautiful-looking. I can’t get over that.

There’s a lot more to see in this movie – a lot of talent in voicing – Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, Jason Lee, and even Brad Bird – the director. The stunts and action sequences are breathtaking – with homages to Star Wars, Star Trek, Seven, Silence of the Lambs, Lethal Weapon. The morals are clear but not hammered down. But at the end, it’s the characters who make this a marvel – all of them are memorable, and interesting, because they’re well-developed, well-written, and well-animated. I only wish that in movies real actors could be so well-written as in this one. I guess for the next little while I’ll be expecting better acting from drawn characters than those played by real actors.

Check it out for yourself.

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