Pixar's The Incredibles is yet another entry in a long series of successes from that studio, including Toy Story, A Bug's Life, Monsters, Inc., and Die, Shrek, Die. And it is a worthy successor to its predecessors. The Incredibles was written and directed by Brad Bird (known for his previous animated feature, Giant Iron) who also provided many of the voices, assisted with editing, and got coffee for the crew.
The Incredibles begins many years in the past with Mr. Incredible, a superhero of enormous fame, battling the silent but explosively deadly Land Mime. This is the "golden age" of superheroes, and Mr. Incredible fights side by side with such champions of justice as Stringmaster, Lay Lady Lei, Buzz Lightbeer, and Judge Wapner. At the end of the flashback, we see Mr. Incredible forced to quit the hero life and take a regular job after discovering that Social Security will be bankrupt by the time he reaches retirement age.
Back in the present, Mr. Incredible (living under the name Bob Fourapples) and the former Elastigirl (Helen A. Handbasket) have settled down together and started a family. Just as Mr. Incredible had "incredible" good looks and Elastigirl could make things seem to last a long time, their children tend to have super abilities. The eldest son, Dash, is super cowardly and "dashes off" at the slightest sign of peril. Daughter Violet is invisible (she does not actually appear in the film). But the youngest child, baby Jack Jack (short for Jack Jack Jackidy Jack), is the Marilyn Munster of the bunch and has no powers at all, aside from a preternatural diaper smell.
Bob misses the superhero life and hates his job (creating accidents for an insurance company). He's excited when a gorgeous blonde named Ménage hires him to once again put on a superhero outfit so he can go to a desert island and stop a rogue R2 unit with a bad motivator.
In preparation for his newly rediscovered super life, Bob visits his old costume designer Edna "Ed" Mode (voiced by Roz from Monsters, Inc.) to get some new duds. Edna's performance is one of the finest in the film, with a quirky manner of speaking and an accent distinctly half Japanese and half German with an undertone that makes you almost think her voice was supplied by a guy. Edna is only about as big as Bob's head, a nod to classic costume designer Edith Head.
With his new suit, Bob becomes Mr. Incredible once again and sets off on a harrowing adventure. Sadly, he is so focused on the job he is hired to do that he neglects to stop a robbery at a rice factory where his Uncle Ben works, and his uncle is killed by the villainous Syndrome. Mr. Incredible realizes that with a great family comes great responsibility and vows to take his whole clan with him on adventures from that point onward.
There are too many surprises in the balance of the film for the remainder of the plot to be given in any sort of detail here, although it is worth pointing out that the final twist in which the Incredibles defeat Syndrome's army of robot tripods by developing a virus that kills their drivers is brilliantly original and hasn't been seen before in film (with a couple of exceptions).
Although the plot and graphics are what most people think of when they speak of The Incredibles, it's the songs that really make the film complete. When Mr. Incredible realizes that rising health-care costs will eventually wipe him out financially and the crowd responds by singing "Blame Canada," it brings a tear to the eye. Elastigirl's obsession with Elvis songs is entertaining, and Syndrome's "You've Got a Fiend in Me" is just brilliant. But it's Isaac Hayes theme for 'Frozone that is the runaway hit of the film.
And speaking of Mr. Incredible's best friend 'Frozone -- his character led to a bit of controversy. In particular, some people were offended by what they saw as a stereotypical portrayal of African American 'Frozone, who is "so cool he can up an' make folks freeze." Voiced by Michael Jackson, 'Frozone raps and dances his way through the film, and his giant afro dominates every scene he's in. Pixar denies any conscious effort to give 'Frozone a stereotypical personality (they claim the character was based on the Star Wars saga's Jar Jar Binks), but in a show of sensitivity they made a last-minute overdub of one line, changing 'Frozone's day job to butler from pimp.
In its first week of release, The Incredibles made a paltry $70 million, prompting Disney CEO Michael Eisner to throw up his hands in exasperation and say, "Now can you see why we don't want to work with these Pixar bozos?" At the time of this writing, it is still unclear whether Disney will let Pixar distribute their films through them on a continuing basis, since the profit from one of their films would barely cover Eisner's stock options for a year.
Trivia: Even in its first week of release, there was talk of an Academy Award for Sean England for his exemplary digital archiving, and technical director Chris Rock's work was so obviously brilliant that he was asked to host the upcoming Academy Awards ceremony.
Trivia: The Incredibles is Pixar's first cartoon to be rated R (for Edna Mode's brief but disturbing nude scene).
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