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Review: The Incredibles

The Incredibles may fight to save the world, but they teach us to know thyself.




The Incredibles
Photo: Walt Disney Pictures

Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s Team America: World Place made for half-assed political satire, but the film’s humorous anti-Bruckheimer agenda succeeds in exposing the bone-headedness of the average Middle American citizen who responds to tripe like Pearl Harbor (presumably the same people who agree with George W. Bush’s war on terror). In much the same way that Parker and Stone skewer films like Armageddon and Pearl Harbor, Brad Bird (The Iron Giant) combines and sends-up the best and worst elements of countless James Bond and superhero flicks to suggest that Middle America is above the lies Hollywood sells the public. Less cynical and infinitely more hopeful than Team America, The Incredibles looks to redefine the meaning of family-friendly entertainment. After a string of lawsuits sends the world’s superheroes into hiding, Bob Parr (a.k.a. Mr. Incredible) resigns himself to living out the rest of his days as just another schmuck in the crowd (in fact, Bob’s disconnect from the self—coupled with the structuralist vigor of Bird’s compositions—recalls the struggle of King Vidor’s main character from his brilliant silent The Crowd). Bird’s Pixar wonderland is a triumph of Eames-era emotional frustration that wears on Bob’s soul. When called to a Dr. Evil-esque island on a top-secret mission, Bob reclaims his lost identity but must confront the effects a past transgression had on someone else’s sense of self. From this remote island emerges the film’s disgruntled menace, a Dubya-esque ninny who looks to exploit an attack on a downtown financial district to his public relations advantage. Like Bird’s own scene-stealing Edna “E” Bird—an Edith Head-like fashionista who designs superhero outfits—Buddy Pine’s idol worship similarly addresses a certain wishy-washy relationship between the public and its celebrity heroes. There’s plenty of soul-searching that goes on throughout The Incredibles, but the film is most successful as a defense of family: When Mrs. Parr (a.k.a. Elastigirl) comes to her husband’s rescue, Bird gets considerable emotional mileage out of the character’s continued attempts to bend (here, literally and figuratively) in order to keep her family together. Just as riveting is Violet and Dash coming to terms with their superhero powers, an emotional process Bird uses to conflate the family’s love and respect for one another. The Incredibles may fight to save the world, but they teach us to know thyself.

Cast: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, Jason Lee, Dominique Lewis, Jean Sincere, Spencer Fox, Sarah Vowell, John Ratzenberger, Wallace Shawn, Brad Bird, Elizabeth Peña Director: Brad Bird Screenwriter: Brad Bird Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures Running Time: 115 min Rating: PG Year: 2004 Buy: Video, Soundtrack

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