Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Incredibles: Disney/Pixar's Answer To Watchmen?

The Good: Funny, Cute, Good concept, Good DVD bonus features
The Bad: Predictable plot and character arcs, Underdeveloped characters
The Basics: A rather average animated flick, The Incredibles follows super heroes after their time has passed in a film too smart for children and too obvious for adults.

For those who do not read through my library of reviews here, the film I have been most excited about for quite some time was Watchmen (click here for that review!). In fact, I've loved the film and the merchandising and everything surrounding the film so much that I've annoyed my partner for a considerable percentage of our relationship. It's amazing she's still with me, in fact! But what amazed me was that while watching one of her favorite films, The Incredibles, she saw no parallels to the graphic novel or film. While I might be biased, it seems there are parallels to draw, but that the writers of The Incredibles chose to make a comedy, as opposed to a tight, tense drama.

The Incredibles was one of Disney/Pixar's films and while it is an animated movie, it actually is a bit more serious and adult than most Pixar fare. Instead of going for all of the easiest jokes, The Incredibles opts to present a darker story with the hopes that the murkier elements will go over the heads of children. As such, the movie works well and is generally engaging, but adults will find it less than extraordinary when they look at it deeper. Even so, the film is a fun one and it is one that is easy to return to for enjoyment.

Mr. Incredible, a superhero with great strength, is committed to foiling the criminals who plague the City when he is annoyed by a young man who wants to be his sidekick. In the process of trying to stop a bank robber and divest himself of the sidekick, Mr. Incredible causes a profound amount of damage to the city and the public outcry and lawsuits are resolved with making superheroes illegal and forcing the extraordinary people into obscure jobs. Mr. Incredible finds himself working as an insurance adjuster informing people kept from getting their claims filled. He is approached one day to recover an automatic, continually-learning robot that is a prototype. Excited by the opportunity to use his actual skills, Mr. Incredible secretly heads out to recover the prototype for his new mysterious benefactors.

After successfully completing his mission, Mr. Incredible returns to his family with increased wealth and a growing longing to do more action-adventure work and less insurance adjusting. But when Mr. Incredible is called into action again, the prototype returns and Mr. Incredible is trapped on an island in battle against it. At that point, Mr. Incredible's wife, Elastigirl, discovers what has been going on and she marshals the forces of her stupendously fast son, her daughter who has the ability to turn invisible and Mr. Incredible's best friend, Frozone, to go and rescue the other hero.

The Incredibles takes the concept of superheroes and works to apply some of the real-world factors to the ideal much the way Hancock did. So, while the movie has an animated film's sense of physics with people getting thrown around, not ever truly getting battered or wounded, it has a sense of the economic realities of the world (or, at least, the United States). So, for example, having Mr. Incredible tethered to a terrible job and having the law intervene to control people with superpowers - and only after lawsuits and economic damages exceed the benefit of the heroes being active - create an adult sense of the world. There is less of a child's imaginative vision in this film.

The incongruent aspect in The Incredibles comes with the storytelling then. Mr. Incredible is a superstrong individual, but he is remarkably dimwitted. Outside his ability to deliver one-liners and his desire to help people, he is remarkably lowbrow: gullible and not terribly innovative. What ties him to Elastigirl, outside the fact both have super powers is a mystery that is never adequately explored in the film. In other words, The Incredibles is erratic and it does not seem to know truly what it wants to be: a film for adults who appreciate superhero movies with more bounce than most or a bright animated film that does not quite make sense with its characters who are mysteriously being kept from living up to their full potential.

Outside that, The Incredibles is largely satisfying to anyone who does like a superhero film or a decent comedy. The movie is funny and the one-liners are quickly delivered. There is a lot of tongue-in-cheek humor that will appeal to adults and children alike. Children, for example, will enjoy the berating Mr. Incredible takes at the hands of his tiny boss, Mr. Huph, and adults will enjoy the irony of why Mr. Incredible is being reprimanded. Both are likely to enjoy the moment Mr. Incredible snaps and throws his boss through several walls.

But despite being funny and having generally decent animation, the film is remarkably predictable. In fact, the writers did not go far from other children's movies for their plot. Those who sat through Scooby-Doo, for example, will likely find this a surprisingly unimaginative move and one that offers no plot or character surprises. While The Incredibles adds little asides for getting Mr. Incredible a new costume after his first mission against the prototype and a few moments with his family, most of the movie is pretty direct in getting to the true villains of the film and it is likely to leave no viewers actually surprised.

Utilizing the voice talents of Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Wallace Shawn and Jason Lee, The Incredibles uses the voice talents of its cast quite well. Directed by Brad Bird, The Incredibles looks good and he does the best he can with the script he was given. On DVD, The Incredibles includes a commentary track and featurettes on the making of the film, including the casting. There are also animated shorts, character biographies and deleted scenes and bloopers which are entertaining.

The Incredibles is entertaining and it is hampered by its simplicity more than any technical flaws. This, however, is not enough to not recommend it, nor enough to prevent suggesting that this is a worthy addition to the collection of anyone who likes decent superhero comedies.

For other animated films by Disney or Disney/Pixar, check out my reviews of:
Toy Story 3
Sleeping Beauty
Lady And The Tramp


For other movie reviews, please visit my index page!

© 2010, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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