The Incredibles (2004)
Directed by Brad Bird

Artistic & Entertainment Value
* * *

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Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl had been superheroes, until a series of lawsuits forced them and every other superhero to retire and live as ordinary suburbanites. Fifteen years and three children later, Mr. Incredible is working at an insurance company under an assumed identity and surreptitiously saving lives in his spare time. While indulging in this altruistic hobby, he is seen by a mysterious woman who offers him the chance to become a superhero again. What Mr. Incredible does not know is that she is actually employed by a new supervillain, who will shortly try to kill him. Fortunately, Mr. Incredible's wife and two older children, who have superpowers of their own, learn of his plight and come to his rescue.

Brad Bird's computer animated The Incredibles is a fun, humorous, and even exciting film. While it may not be more than a pleasant diversion, it is always entertaining.

The story the director tells is consistently amusing, punctuated by moments of predictable but enjoyable humor, and enlivened with a number of goofy characters. Admittedly, the protagonists' various adventures are never inspired, and some are even hackneyed or unduly saccharine. Nonetheless, even though the viewer may cringe when he sees how Mr. Incredible's son longs to use his special abilities, how his shy daughter gains self confidence, or how all the members of the hero's family bond with one another, the general silliness and likeableness with which such elements have been realized allow him to forgive the film its faults and to appreciate its simple accomplishments.

What is more, while The Incredibles' gentle satire of various conventions of superhero and other action films is never incisive, it is often able to make the moviegoer laugh. The director's depiction of the villain's fantastic hideout inside of a volcano was clearly inspired by places found in several James Bond films and is honestly delightful. His scenes showing how various heroes are killed when their capes are caught in jet engines, how they must turn to a special fashion designer to purchase their unique costumes, and how they gleefully butcher the nameless henchmen of their enemy are all sure to stir up a few chuckles. None of these details are truly hilarious, but all are nicely done.

Visually, the film is as pleasant and unmemorable as it is narratively. Although the animation used to create The Incredibles is technically impressive, it is never realized with any noticeable aesthetic sensitivity and is, as a result, not likely to move the viewer in any profound way. Throughout the film, the director mingles extremely realistic and wildly exaggerated images. The former are so photographically accurate that they are not especially attractive and may cause the viewer to wonder why Bird did not simply film the movie. Consequently, although he may be impressed by the skill with which such details have been brought to the screen, the moviegoer probably will not be struck by their artistic worth. Frankly, they just seem pointless. Fortunately, the cartoonish images, which are primarily used to give life to the movie's characters and to create its fanciful technologies, are far more interesting. Many are cleverly or humorously conceived and do add to the film's appeal.

I cannot say that the viewer is likely ever to be awed by The Incredibles, but he probably will enjoy watching it.

Review by Keith Allen

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