movie film review | chris tookey


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  Incredibles Review
Tookey's Rating
10 /10
Average Rating
8.89 /10
Voices of: , Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible: Craig T. Nelson , Helen Parr/Elastigirl: Holly Hunter
Full Cast >

Directed by: Brad Bird
Written by: Brad Bird

Released: 2004
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 115

Pixar’s previous animated hits include such gems as Toy Story, A Bug’s Life and Finding Nemo. The Incredibles is not as good. It’s even better, and in years to come I suspect it will be regarded as Pixar’s masterpiece. For grown-ups, it’s a highly intelligent, wonderfully witty satire on modern society. But for almost every age, it’s a very funny comedy and thrillingly entertaining adventure (though it may be too loud and frightening for the very, very young). This isn’t just the best animated film of 2005, eclipsing even Shrek 2, it may well turn out to be the best film of the year. 5 stars aren’t enough to convey its excellence. It raises animated film to a whole new level.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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A bald recounting of the plot might suggest that this is just another Superhero saga torn from a Marvel comic. Its premise echoes films such as X-Men and Spider-Man, and indeed the Watchmen series of graphic novels. But it’s funnier and more ingenious than any of them.

Bob Parr (voiced by Craig T. Nelson) is an old-fashioned, square-jawed, all-American super-hero who enjoys nothing more than to put on his Mr. Incredible tights and mask, and perform daring deeds to save the world. But a series of expensive lawsuits brought by disgruntled citizens and frustrated suicides who abhor his can-do, pro-life behaviour, turns the public against him and his kind.

So he and his super-hero wife Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) are reassimilated into society via a Superhero Relocation Program. For 15 years they try to pass as a normal couple with their three children. Bob squeezes himself into a small cubicle at the office where he works unhappily for a mean-minded insurance company. Then he crams himself into an even smaller car to drive home, where he plays the role of any suburban dad, patching up rows between his children, humouring his wife and going for Wednesday nights out with his best friend Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson), doing good in surreptitious ways that their respective wives know nothing about.

But one day Bob loses his desk job, and a glamorous young lady (Elizabeth Pena) offers him the chance to return to Superhero duties; but he’s walking into a trap. A new super-villain Syndrome (voiced by Jason Lee) has secretly killed off many of the surviving superheroes around the world, and now he is targeting Bob and his family.

The second half of the movie changes tone. As the hilarious Bond-pastiche score by Michael Giacchino emphasises, it becomes more of an action movie, while retaining a sense of humour and making use of effects that only animated characters could possibly achieve.

A few American critics have lambasted the second half for being violent, and it’s true that when the Incredible family fights back in self-defence, it does indeed fight.

When the bad guy sends a deadly plane flying into Manhattan (the 9/11 symbolism could hardly be more explicit), the message is clear: you can’t negotiate with such people, you have to defeat them. The heroes of this movie are not called The Empathisers or The Peacemakers, and the film will undoubtedly be seen as a Bush-era movie par excellence.

But commentators who castigate the movie as pro-Bush are missing a number of points. For a start, the film’s writer-director, Brad Bird, is politically left of centre. His work on The Simpsons betrays an irreverent approach to the US Establishment, and his last cartoon, The Iron Giant (1999) wore its left-wing prejudices on its sleeve.

The argument of The Iron Giant, which was popular with critics but failed to endear it to a mass audience, followed the Michael Moore-Oliver Stone line that the military-industrial complex is bad, and environmentalists, peace campaigners and anti-hunt lobbyists are good.

The Incredibles suggests that Bird has either changed his mind, or reassessed the political and social climate, and come up with a film that far more accurately reflects the conservative spirit of our age.

Key to his new film’s success is the way it taps deep into our notions of what life, especially family life, should be about. In the old days, family films celebrated the all-powerful rule of Dad – but that’s not the case here. Mr Incredible may be the breadwinner; but Mrs I is the one who has to stretch herself in all directions to meet her family’s needs, like a domesticated version of the super-flexible Elastigirl she once was. And she’s the one who works hardest to keep her family safe, by ensuring that their superheroic attributes remain under wraps.

Brad Bird’s most brilliant idea is to make the Incredible family both super-heroic and archetypal. Violet Incredible is a typical teenage girl, hiding from the world behind her hair and, although she isn’t allowed to use her superhero power of invisibility, like many teenage girls she feels so under-appreciated as to be invisible.

Her younger brother, Dash, is a mass of suppressed energy but isn’t allowed to show off his superheroic power of speed, because that would make him “different”. So he’s barred from the very thing he’s best at: athletics.

As for the seemingly angelic baby Jack-Jack, his superhero powers remain a mystery until the end of the film, when he too joins in to save the day.

So the movie celebrates the traditional family unit, but recognises the mother as equal partner, and points out that even the children in a family have responsibilities.

It departs from the Hollywood norm by laying unfashionable emphasis on the sanctity of marriage. Mr and Mrs Incredible live by their vow in church to be together until death do them part. And for their children, the strength of their parent’s marriage is central. At one point, young Violet inspires her younger brother with the words “Mom and dad’s lives could be in danger – or, worse, their marriage!”

The film also embraces the truth, unpalatable to so many on the Left, that intelligent conservatism can be more progressive than left-wing dogma. The Incredible family suffers from an unthinking egalitarianism in society that results in blandness, mediocrity and a system that rewards failure, undervalues success and won’t allow people to be the best they can be. It’s rather a good metaphor for Tony Blair’s Britain.

When Mrs Incredible pays dutiful lip service to prevailing notions of equality by saying “The world just wants us to fit in”, young Dash grumbles “Dad says our powers make us special.”

“Everyone is special, Dash.” Mom chides him.

“Which is another way of saying nobody is!” replies Dash. He has a point.

So no wonder that this extremely entertaining movie is going to drive some po-faced, liberal commentators into paroxysms of rage. Actually, they’re wrong to label it as reactionary – it celebrates racial tolerance, compassion and social activism, among other values too frequently commandeered by the Left.

Where the movie is daringly conservative is that it isn’t afraid to champion the importance of competitive sports and the right to self-defence, and it acknowledges the idiocy of pretending that everyone is equal. It espouses Christian values, whether or not you happen to believe in God, and it sensitively updates the idea of family to the 21st century.

Not bad going for a kids’ movie.

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