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The Incredibles (2004)

Save The Day

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 120 minutes

US Certificate: PG UK Certificate: U

The good folk at Pixar have been beating their corporate boss Disney at its own game for over a decade now, producing some of the most innovative animation ever seen and using it to package character-driven stories that have something for the entire family to enjoy – and their latest film, ‘The Incredibles’, is destined to reveal its true superpowers at the box office, by finally overcoming the arch-enemy of Pixar, human nature. For while Pixar has managed to create toys, bugs, monsters and fish that have been three-dimensional in every sense, so far the human characters in Pixar films have been marked by a clunky flatness that belies the much vaunted ‘photorealism’ of computer-generated images – and accordingly they have appeared only occasionally to act as awkward foils to the more prominent (and much better-looking) non-human characters.

‘The Incredibles’, however, is populated entirely by humans (and superhumans), so that at last they get to be real characters rather than mere afterthoughts – and, thanks to the leaps and bounds made in animation technique, they look just dandy. Stylised and exaggerated they may be – that is, after all, part of their superheroic charm – but their skin-tight costumes, their bristling musculature, and even their hair have a natural fluidity that allows viewers to forget for a moment that they are watching a set of complex computer algorithms, and instead get on with the pleasurable business of losing themselves in a hilarious, super-charged story.

Fifteen years ago, Bob Parr, alias Mr Incredible (voiced by Craig T. Nelson), was at his peak as one of the world’s greatest crimefighters – but a series of lawsuits forced him, as well as his new wife Helen/Elastigirl (Helen Hunter) and all the other superheroes, to enter the Superhero Relocation Program and renounce their fantastic powers. Now, stuck in a soul-destroying office job, and stifled by his suburban home-life with Helen and their three young children, Bob is suffering a mid-life supercrisis, wondering where his glory days have gone – until he becomes drawn into the clutches of a supervillain (Jason Lee), rediscovers the special power of his own family, and gets to save the world once again.

Like Finding Nemo, Pixar’s last venture, ‘The Incredibles’ takes parental anxieties as its focus – and its message is cunningly designed to make parents feel just that little bit more heroic about the two hours that they are spending together with their children in the cinema. There is little in the film’s retro-futurist look, its family of super rescuers, and its gadgety James Bond-style villain, that has not been seen before, be it in Robert Rodriguez’s excellent Spy Kids trilogy or the more recent (and more forgettable) Thunderbirds – but not even the talented Rodriguez can quite pull off in his live-action adventures the gravity-defying antics that are on hyper-animated display in ‘The Incredibles’. The film may present something of a mixed message – it suggests that spending time with one’s family can be more important than trying to save the world, while showing Bob getting to do both at the same time – but still, it is impossible to dislike this charming, funny story of just an ordinary, extraordinary guy.

It's Got: A whole family with superpowers; Samuel L. Jackson taking cool to a whole new level as Mr Incredibles best friend Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson); a diminutive designer of superhero costumes, Edna Mode, voiced by writer/director Brad Bird; a tropical hideout called Nomanisan Island; a battle in the city with a giant Omnidroid; state-of-the-art CGI, including flames, water, lava, and credible human skin and hair.

It Needs: To be just a little less like the films listed below.


Stunningly animated, if somewhat derivative, story of an ordinary, extraordinary family.