The Incredbibles

(directed by Brad Bird, starring Holly Hunter, Craig T Nelson and Samuel L Jackson, 121 mins)
released UK 26 November 2004

Being a big fan of all things Pixar, I can tell you now that I've been awaiting this release for some time. At the same time, every time Pixar release a new animated film the bar is being constantly raised in terms of technical excellence, and the stories are always good too. When I saw the sneak preview trailer on the Finding Nemo DVD, I thought it was looking pretty good even then, and it was just a case of how the finished product would turn out.

As a name like the Incredibles would suggest, it's all about super heroes. Well, fallen ones, actually. It shows you at the start how Mr. Incredible stops someone committing suicide, who then sues the super hero. After countless other lawsuits follows (neat nod to the compensation culture there) super heroes are effectively banned, and forced underground to work in normal mundane day jobs. As it turns out, Bob Parr (aka Mr. Incredible) marries Helen (aka Elastigirl) and years on, you can see them in an (almost) normal family situation - albeit a bit dysfunctional due to the children's occasional use of their super powers when they're not supposed to use them and Mr. Incredible being far too soft in the insurance job that he works at.

Anyway, Mr. Incredible receives a call, and he thinks it's an opportunity too good to miss. What he doesn't realise is that it's all part of an evil plot, set up by someone who now calls himself Syndrome. In his previous guise, he was Mr. Incredible's so-called number one fan but kept getting in the way of him doing his job properly and causing accidents. Prior to this, Mr. Incredible sees his fashion designer of his costumes, Edna (brilliantly voiced by Bird himself) and gets a new costume in the bargain, not just a repair job. He goes to the island where he still thinks he's training for a new mission, but a more sinister reason will soon emerge...

I'm not one to spoil the whole plot, but suffice to say the family's different super powers are called upon, and this is where you really start to be amazed at the excellent work of the animation. Due to the various powers, they had to be distinct characters, and indeed in the case of Elastigirl to be pretty stretchy to say the least. Yet at all times, it looks totally convincing. Not least when the child Dash does his thing and runs on water in one scene. The attention to detail is simply stunning here - the water splashes, the shadows, the reflections, everything. It really does take your breath away. As also does the scenery and backdrops, lavishly decorated in the opening part to resemble the older times and seen again years later in much more modern form.

The voice characterisations are also really good. Holly Hunter excels as Elastigirl/Helen Parr, not least when she is trying to reason with Mr Incredible, but also showing the motherly caring side when looking out for her children. A great mix of emotion and humour. And as for Samuel L Jackson as Frozone/Lucius Best, he's a complete hoot. There's one scene in the film where he's looking for his super suit, and his wife has moved it, and he proclaims full on: "this is about the greater good" in full on homeboyish style, to which his wife replies "You're the greatest good you're ever going to get!". That undelines not only the humour, but also the subtltety of the whole thing.

As for the characters themselves, really this is what makes it stand above all other Pixar releases - they're so much more believable. Whether this is because you can imagine them being human, I don't know, but there seems to be plenty of thought gone into the way they all interact with each other. One such little subtlety is the little boy on his tricycle who sees Mr. Incredible lifting his car up in frustration after not being able to close it properly. "Wicked" he exclaims happy. The little boy comes back the next day and nothing happens, and you can see he's gutted and trudges off. But he's back at the end for the really wicked and funny finale, and when he said his line, everyone smiled and giggled, such was the warmth and humaneness of it all.

And the best thing of all - it doesn't feel like the film was two hours long. The pace was just right and it went along very nicely indeed. So much so that before you've realised it, the end is in sight. But not without a final little twist or two in the tale that'll make you smile at the complete intelligence of the writing - appealing to all levels.

So, ultimately, as Finding Nemo is the current Pixar benchmark, you're going to ask me if I think it's as good as that. No it isn't. Before you think "it can't be that good then!" let me tell you this - it actually beats Finding Nemo hands down and is their best release, even surpassing Monsters Inc. for story and humour, even surpassing Toy Story for having heroes you can believe in, and having many hilarious moments along the way - from whether the film is spoofing Mission Impossible, James Bond and countless other superhero films, there's always a little chink of light humour to underpin the whole thing. If you can see The Incredibles before the release date, then do what I did - and go and see it. You won't be disappointed.

Warren's rating: 94%