The Incredibles

Brad Bird's richly imagined, retro-moderne homage to the superhero-fueled daydreams of his youth creates a vibrantly original mythology, heavily inflected by the lore of Marvel's much-loved Fantastic Four and spiked with allusions to James Bond, Thunderbirds and other '60s pop-culture touchstones. We first see popular crime-fighters Mr. Incredible (voice...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Brad Bird's richly imagined, retro-moderne homage to the superhero-fueled daydreams of his youth creates a vibrantly original mythology, heavily inflected by the lore of Marvel's much-loved Fantastic Four and spiked with allusions to James Bond, Thunderbirds and other '60s pop-culture touchstones. We first see popular crime-fighters Mr. Incredible (voice of Craig T. Nelson), Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) and Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) via "vintage" black-and-white interview clips, followed by a smoothly kinetic sequence that flawlessly encapsulates Mr. Incredible's big-blue-Boy Scout bona fides. In rapid succession he tangles with super-villain Bomb Voyage (Dominique Louis), frees a treed cat, stops a runaway train, rescues a would-be suicide, brushes off persistent fan-boy Buddy (Jason Lee) and gets to his own wedding to Elastigirl. But fickle public favor turns against fanciful superheroes, forcing the newlyweds to assume new identities and vanish into a federal relocation program. Fifteen years later, "Bob and Helen Parr" live in '60s deluxe-style suburban anonymity; Bob is an insurance adjuster, while Helen stays at home with teenage Violet (Sarah Vowell), 10-year-old Dash (Spencer Fox) and baby Jack Jack. The Parrs have taught their children to embrace conformity and conceal their superpowers — shy Vi can become invisible and generate force fields; hyperactive Dash is gifted with super-speed — while understanding all too well the strain of denying your nature. In fact, unbeknownst to Helen, Bob has been sneaking out at night with Frozone — now just plain Lucius Best — and righting wrongs for old times' sake. Bob's escapades attract the notice of mysterious femme fatale Mirage (Elizabeth Pena), who hires him to bring down a rampaging experimental battle droid — Mr. Incredible is back in the game! But there's more to Mirage and her reclusive employer than meets the eye. Bird has great fun with every aspect of his grand valentine to costumed righteousness, from the comic spectacle of flabby, middle-aged physiques crammed into unforgiving outfits by E (Bird), couturier to the superhero elite, to the stylized closing credits, a snazzy mini-movie in their own right. But his concerns run deeper than that. "They keep coming up with new ways to celebrate mediocrity," Bob says sadly, and it's clear that Bird yearns for a world in awe of the extraordinary rather than one driven by a no-ego-left-behind ethos of gold stars all around. The result is truly a family film, not a kiddie time-waster that throws the occasional sop to adults; whether you like or love it is a function of how vividly the material reflects your own childhood fantasies.

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  • Released: 2004
  • Rating: PG
  • Review: Brad Bird's richly imagined, retro-moderne homage to the superhero-fueled daydreams of his youth creates a vibrantly original mythology, heavily inflected by the lore of Marvel's much-loved Fantastic Four and spiked with allusions to James Bond, Thunderbir… (more)

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