Pixar's The Incredibles
Newest pic one of the best superhero movies of all
Friday, November 5, 2005
by Alex Stroup, MousePlanet editor
[Are you a parent wondering how Pixar's rated PG movie might fare with
your child? Read Lisa Perkis' special Parenting in the Theater
review of The Incredibles below.]
With the penultimate release of the current partnership between Disney
and Pixar, Disney has to be hoping that Pixar continues its existence
as a money-printing machine. It might have been to Disney's negotiating
advantage for Pixar to have a bit of a stumble at this stage, but after
a terrible year at the box office, any money is good money.
And let there be no mistake: Pixar is eventually going to release a dud.
Just not in 2004. The Incredibles is a dazzling mix of action,
humor, satire, and visual style that makes it not only the best animated
movie of the year (yes, better than the sweet but overly ironic Shrek
2) but also one of the best superhero movies of all time (a genre
of admittedly weak competition).
© Buena Vista Pictures Distribution.
If you are fan of director Brad Bird's The Iron Giant (1999)and if you've seen it, you should bethen you'll likely really go for
The Incredibles. The style is very different, but it has a core
of sentimentality that keeps you connected to the characters without becoming
treacle. The story is high-concept and simple to explain: An overly litigious
society forces superheroes to give up their work and live only within
their secret-identity lives. One average family (the Parrs, of course)
are drawn back into the superhero life by a new supervillain.
The idea of superheroes giving up, or losing, what it is that makes them
unique is hardly new. It was done earlier this year in Spider-Man 2,
and it was done 24 years ago in Superman II. Brad Bird, however,
who also wrote the movie, gets to both have his cake and eat it. Reveling
in the superhero formula, he also gets to satirize it. In his world, superheroes
give up their heroic deeds not to have a normal life with a loved one,
but because innocent bystanders keep suing them for the damage caused
in the pursuit of supervillains.
It is a clever set-up that correctly sets the mood for a movie that will
be more action-oriented and less comedy-oriented than Pixar's other films.
In fact, this may be the only thing that could blunt the success of the
movie. When I first saw it in unfinished form almost a year ago, I thought
it was a bit too talky and, at 115 minutes, too long for the core audience.
Seeing it in completed form I no longer feel so strongly about it, but
I don't really see 4-, 5-, and 6-year-olds wanting to watch it over and
I can't complain, though, if an animated movie has erred on the side
of playing too old. Older children and adults will find plenty to entertain
them, and if the youngest lose interest and hurt the bottom line at the
box office and on DVD, it in no way detracts from the quality.
It is perhaps true that every success by computer-generated animation
is another nail in the coffin of traditional animation, and if so that
is to be lamented. Regardless, the advances in the form shown by Pixar
and Dreamworks (through PDI, the company that creates Dreamworks' animated
CGI movies) are phenomenal. Human characters are the greatest challenge
(see Andy in the Toy Story movies), and you could sense Pixar trying
to avoid them as much as possible. Has Pixar solved the human problem?
No, they've avoided it and likely created more real looking characters
through comic-book caricatures than if they'd gone for complete realism.
Traditional animation and comic books require a stylized vision, as it
is just too labor intensive to capture every detail of reality. It is
perhaps ironic that live-action filmmakers spend so much time trying to
get reality out of the frame while computer-generated filmmakers have
spent so much effort trying to get it back in. This is a long-winded way
of trying to say that Brad Bird's vision well uses the CG form while still
relying on the visual simplicity he required as a traditional animator.
Pixar has also continued its genious at voice-casting. With the exception
of the Toy Story movies, they've again avoided the pitfall of Disney's
other animated films where every voice is a somebody, and you spend half
your time trying to recognize or remember who some bit character is.
Craig T. Nelson (Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible), Holly Hunter (Helen Parr/Elastigirl),
Jason Lee (Syndrome), and Sarah Vowell (Violet Parr), of NPR fame, are
all distinctive voices while not being overwhelmingly familiar. Samuel
L. Jackson's ice-wielding Frozone is probably the most familiar voice,
but his screen time is limited to a couple minutes at most.
The entire voice cast is excellent, with Holly Hunter being a particularly
edgy choice that works wonderfully. Hunter doesn't have the greatest voice
in the world, with some rough edges and verbal tics that end up solidifying
Elastigirl as a real person.
Bird heard Sarah Vowell narrating on National Public Radio's This
American Life and knew she'd be the perfect voice for Violet, a teenaged
girl trying to figure out who she is, and her shyness well represented
by her powers of invisibility and force fields. Vowell's quirky voice
captures this girl living inside herself, waiting for permission to control
her body and her personality.
Perhaps the best voice, though, is that of Brad Bird himself as Edna
Mode, clothing designer to the superheroes. Her lecture on why heroes
should not wear capes may be the funniest bit in the movie.
© Buena Vista Pictures Distribution.
As mentioned before, The Incredibles has some scenes that may
simply be too boring for the youngest watchers. Simultaneously it does
earn its PG rating with action scenes that may be too intense for those
same youngest viewers, and while nobody dies on screen, the deaths of
various minions and henchmen can be directly inferred.
Seeing the trailer for Cars brought home how close we likely are
to the end of the Disney/Pixar era. Only one more movie to go and then
we'll all begin to learn whether it was a symbiotic or parasitic relationship.
Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact Alex here.
Parenting in the Theater Review
The Incredibles a solid winner for the whole family
Friday, November 5, 2005
by Lisa Perkis, staff writer
[Caution: There are very mild spoilers in this review.]
In our house, seeing new Pixar movies is a no-brainer. They come out,
we go. However, when the commercials for The Incredibles started
running, my 7-year-old declared she didn't want to see it, because it
looked, in her words, Way too scary, Mom. The commercials
didn't look all that bad, but it did look like some more intense action
and a departure from the usual mild storylines. Also, the film was rated
PG, instead of the G all other Pixar films received. But come on now,
this is a Pixar movieit can't be too bad, can it?
Let's get one thing out of the way before we answer that question. The
movie is great, stupendous, ingenious, fantastic, amazing, wonderful,
exhilarating, and if you give it a dollar it will give you back five quarters
for your four. It's everything you've heard and more so. If you have a
job, quit it and go see this movie as soon as humanly possible. But, the
reviews you are reading are all from adults. Grown-ups who have a history
of watching bullets fly and people, animals, and cartoon characters getting
shot at, beaten on, imperiled, impaled, and generally put in what the
little ones call stranger danger. Getting back to the small
concern some parents might have, how is this movie for children?
The short answer is, it's great! And it's not just great for those parents
who let their 4-year-olds watch Terminator 2 (like a very nice but
not particularly bright friend of ours did). If your children are already
watching Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars,
Spider-Man, or Pirates of the Caribbean, you have absolutely
nothing to worry about. This movie is much less intense, scary, and bloody
than all of those. Even if your younger children aren't yet watching such
movies, you should be fine taking them to see The Incredibles.
This is a true family filmengaging, jaw-dropping, and humorous for the
adults, and thrilling, funny, and inspiring for the kids.
The hardest scenes for some parents and their little ones might be the
times when the Parr/Incredible kids, Dash and Violet, are put in very
real danger by, oh, just about everything: Bullets shooting directly at them,
large men attempting to pummel them with their fists, being nearly blown
up, getting stomped on by a big robot, drowning
you name it. Director Brad
Bird, however, does a good job of presenting that danger in a way that
is exciting and a little scary without being terrifying. You've started
to see that Dash and Violet have the special powers to protect themselves, and that it's just a matter of time before
they start using them to excel against their foes.
In addition to the violence involving Dash and Violet, the movie presents
some real danger and peril. Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl kick some major
buttocks in this film and that includes a lot of bad minions dying some
fairly horrible (although bloodless) deaths.
Also, although not shown on screen, the deaths of some good guys are
referred to. Fortunately, while parents may understand just how gory those
deaths were or will end up being, they should fly over children's heads
(but they may not be asking for caped costumes next Halloween.) The villain
in the movie, Syndrome, is probably on the level of Randall from Monsters,
Inc., starting off bad in the beginning but becoming more and more
fearsome and evil by the big showdown. He does have enough doofusness
in him, though, to remain less than terrifying to the little ones.
Finally, how is the boring factor in this one? Early scenes
show the Parr family doing less-than-incredible things like working at
shlubby jobs and going to school. However, enough humor packs these scenes
to keep children interested, especially from Dash, who would have been
a huge star this Halloween had the movie come out earlier this year. There
is also a substory relating to potential marital problems between the
Parr parents and the influence of a Syndrome henchwoman in that area.
Parents will find this interesting but most children will miss it entirely.
However, these scenes still include a lot of humor or actionfor
example, the parents fighting with each other while fighting the bad guys
is a classicproviding entertainment for all ages.
Our daughters (ages 7 and 10) were very enthusiastic, and are currently
plotting ways to get every adult in their lives to take them to see it
over and over again. Take your children to see it; you won't regret it.
On a side note, Disney's El Capitan Theater in Hollywood is screening
The Incredibles along with a live stage show before each showing.
The stage show has nothing to do with the movie and is titled The
Magic of Hollywood. It's about 10 to 15 minutes of live singer/dancers
(who sound accompanied by vocal tracks on the group numbers) along with
a hodge-podge of Disney characters such as Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Buzz,
Woody, Mike, Sully, Snow White, Belle, and maybe one or two others. The
singers belt out classic movie/theater songs like Singing in the
Rain, That's Entertainment, and Funny Face
while the characters dance along.
Overall, it's fun for the kids (less so for adults) and combined with
the Wurlitzer Organ you see being played live on stage when you enter,
a decent pre-show. Is it worth the $15 for adults and $13 for kids and
seniors (or a whopping $24 VIP ticket, which gets you popcorn, a drink, a reserved seat, and
no line waiting)? Well, it's a nice theater, the organ is cool, and every
Friday they are giving away a digital camera package to one lucky patron.
You shouldn't head over to the El Cap just to see the stage show, but
if you want to make it a nice full day and don't mind shelling out $5 or $6
more than you would to see just the movie at your local theater, it's
a fun time. The Incredibles with the stage show runs five times
daily between now and January 2.
Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact Lisa here.
Friday, November 5, 2005
by Alex Stroup, MousePlanet editor
Boundin' is a Pixar short that will be shown before The
Incredibles. Boundin' has been floating around since
2003, and while The Incredibles is now becoming a contender
for an Academy Award, Boundin' already lost one last February
to Harvie Krumpet.
For most people, though, this will be their first easy opportunity
to see this short film that is almost entirely from the mind of
long-time animator Bud Luckey. Luckey wrote, directed, designed,
narrated, and scored the bit.
It is very much a short; just over four minutes, it involves a
vain sheep who loves to dance. He preens for his neighbors and is
thrown into depression when shorn of his beautiful fleece. Then
a bounding jackalope sets him straight that it isn't the outside
It isn't any great piece of art, but it is a nice confection before
the featured film starts, and the writing is wonderful.
Pixar uses shorts as a means for testing ideas and letting people
cut their teeth (though, at 69, Luckey has been in the industry
for a while) and all animators are encouraged to submit ideas. Animated
from January to October of 2003, Boundin' was reportedly
an opportunity to test some new lighting techniques that will be
seen in next year's Cars. It would be great if we started
to see Disney doing the same and attaching shorts to its feature
releases as well (recognizing that they did attach Lorenzo
to Raising Helen).
The Incredibles is a Walt Disney Pictures
Wide theatrical release: November 5, 2004.
Directed and written by Brad Bird.
Starring: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Jason Lee, Samuel
L. Jackson, and Sarah Vowell.
Rated PG for action violence.
Running time: 115 minutes.
Alex's Rating: 9 out of 10.
Lisa's Rating: 9 out of 10.
Boundin' is a Pixar Studios release.
Wide theatrical release: November 5, 2004 (attached to
Directed, written, and narrated by Bud Luckey.
Not rated, though equivelant of a G.
Running time: 4 minutes.
Alex's Rating: 7 out of 10.
Alex Stroup is a degreed librarian with an undergraduate degree in history. An avid reader, movie buff, and devoted information junkie, Alex currently lives and works in the Northern California Bay Area. Alex is also the CEO of MousePlanet.
Click here to contact Alex.