After conquering the G-movie field with the Toy Story series, Monsters, Inc. and Finding Nemo, and making more than two billion dollars doing it, Pixar is growing up.
They’ve picked up their first PG rating. While never as consistently excellent as those previous films, The Incredibles is by far the most ambitious.
After shucking off its restrictive ‘suitable for all audiences’ marker, Pixar decided to abandon a few other things as well. Gone is the animation standard 90-minute runtime, discarded in favor of nearly two hours of action. Added is a fiery plotline in the vein of Hollywood blockbusters, complete with explosions and family peril. Also, Pixar is rumored to be pushing for a Best Picture nomination but not in the animated category.
Hoping to bring home the golden statuette is Bob Parr (voiced by Craig T. Nelson of Coach fame), a dispirited insurance agent who can’t help but feel nostalgic for the good old days when he was famous, fit and known as superhero extraordinaire Mr. Incredible.
The reason he’s now a dejected insurance representative instead of a crime-fighting superhero? He rescued someone who didn’t want to be rescued. A whole gathering of superheroes were prematurely retired when Mr. Incredible’s rescuing of an ungrateful suicidal turned into a flurry of lawsuits against our crusading heroes.
Now he’s left chasing police scanner call-ins with his buddy Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) and trying to relive those glory days. His wife Helen (Holly Hunter), former heroine Elastigirl, is capable of Stretch Armstrong-like limb movements and is wearing herself out taking care of their household and children-Dash, a speed-demon runner who is getting in trouble at school, and Violet, whose invisibility makes her impossible to keep an eye on. During one of Mr. Incredible’s late night gallantries, he catches the eye of a secret recruiter who adds the spark he needed to rekindle his superhero lifestyle.
But when the proposition turns out to be a trick, the entire family is needed to save Mr. Incredible and the world from the hands of the envious Syndrome (Jason Lee) who resents being born without a superhero’s inherent abilities.
Even if it fails to bring home a Best Picture nomination, it’s a shoe-in for the Best Animated statuette over such competition as Shrek 2 and Shark Tale. Pixar has again managed to create an entirely unique film-going experience, even if the plot does bear a striking resemblance to Robert Rodriguez’s Spy Kids franchise.
Shortly after Nemo replaced The Lion King as the number one grossing animated film in history, the inferior Shrek 2 displaced Nemo earlier this year.
But Pixar has even more bold aspirations than getting into a feud with Dreamworks animation.
They’re content to let their product speak for itself, and it has with increasingly profitable results. Also, Pixar’s films have always tended to receive a greater critical welcome.
Whereas Shark Tale was met with a poor reception, The Incredibles is their sixth consecutive critical darling and also the sixth collaboration between Disney and Pixar. Also likely to be on its last, without a years-in-waiting agreement, Cars will end their business relationship next year. If it is the beginning of the end to their partnership, Pixar is (quite literally) going out with a bang.
The action sequences in The Incredibles are a welcome change of pace for the company and the visuals are predictably amazing. Despite a somewhat sluggish pacing, the creation of Edna Mode (voiced by director Brad Bird) makes up for any slow points.
Edna is a fashion designer who has forgone dressing runway models in favor of the flashy treads of superheroes. She is only too willing to drop everything to model the Incredibles suits, as long as they are devoid of capes, which she humorously reveals are dangerous design gaffes.
Brian Mulligan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.