Sunday, December 14, 2014

Movie #285: The Incredibles

The Incredibles is a Pixar film starring Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, Spencer Fox, Samuel L. Jackson, Jason Lee, and Elizabeth Pena.

The story takes place in a world where superheroes (and villains) are common, and the government has an agency that manages them. Mr. Incredible (Nelson), super-strong but also a canny combatant and decent with espionage, is about to marry Elastigirl (Hunter). But on the night of their wedding, as they're out doing some last-minute hero work (like you do), Mr. Incredible runs afoul of young Buddy (Lee), a boy who wants nothing more than to be his sidekick. Through a series of mishaps, Incredible winds up derailing a train, and the resulting fallout of that and an opportunistic lawsuit by a man attempting suicide forces the heroes to withdraw from public life entirely.

Years later, Mr. Incredible, now just Bob Parr, is working as an insurance agent, and thoroughly miserable. He has three kids; super-fast Dash (Fox); shy Violent (Vowell), who basically has the Invisible Woman's powers; and Jack-Jack, the baby, seemingly powerless. He spends his time fighting crime vigilante style with his buddy Lucius, once the ice-hero Frozone (Jackson). One day, just after getting fired for throwing his boss through a wall (dude deserved it), he receives a job offer from a mysterious woman (Pena). And suddenly, he gets to be a hero again.

Turns out, however, that his employer is none other than Buddy, now grown up and calling himself Syndrome. Thoroughly bitter over never getting to be a hero, he plans to unleash his robot on the world and then "stop" it, becoming a new and well-respected super. This, of course, does not work.

The movie is really amazing. In addition to winning the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, it was nominated for a Best Original Screenplay award, and deservedly so. It's a movie about superheroes, yes, but it gleefully takes for granted what we already know about superheroes (they wear masks, they fight crime, bad guys monologue) and focuses the story on Bob and his family, and how the trials of everyday life are much harder to get around than anything he's used to.

The voice performances are amazing, Holly Hunter in particular. The scene where she's trying to avoid missiles while flying the plane was supposed to involved her buddy Snug (who would die in the ensuing crash), and it's a shame to lose that beat, but it allows Hunter's character to show some real fear and to reveal herself to be a highly capable hero.

And, that's another thing - the heroes are badass. Bob and Helen (and later Lucius) work together seamlessly, and the kids come into their powers awkwardly but effectively. Their awe at seeing their parents as heroes, not just as their parents, is also really nicely done.

If I have a complaint, it's that the "if everyone's super, no one is" motif never really goes anywhere. It's a repeated line, but it doesn't really mean much in the context of the movie - the larger point is that if people are really exceptional, they should be allowed to show that and shine, but even that kind of gets lost, and by the end, the whole family realizes it's not really about the recognition so much as the work. But the stronger thematic focus is on the family and what that means, and that's really where the movie shines.


My Grade: A
Rewatch Value: High

Next up: Independence Day