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Movies: The Incredibles

Ask me to name my favorite movies of all time and I will start with the classics in an effort to impress you: 2001: A Space Odyssey, Citizen Kane, Apocalypse Now, Casablanca, etc. Then, when I think you're stopped paying attention, I may slip in The Iron Giant.

"The Iron Giant?" you might reply, if my efforts to sneak the title past you fail. "Dude, isn't that a cartoon movie for little boys?"

Pffffft! No! No, it is totally not a "cartoon movie for little boys!" It's a, y'know. An animated movie. For the, um. For the young at heart.

Anyway, I was so impressed with The Iron Giant that I found myself anxiously awaiting writer / director Bard Bird's next film. And waiting, and waiting. Finally, five years later, I heard that he was making a superhero movie with Pixar. Brad Bird and superheroes and Pixar, all in one movie? That's, like, the goodness trifecta! Of course, with expectations that high, the film would have to be fantastic not to leave me disappointed. And it's a testament to the quality of The Incredibles that I left the theater feeling exhilarated instead of let-down.

Bob Parr is Mr. Incredible -- well, he was, until he married Elastic Girl, retired, and started raising a family. Now he has three kids (older of which have superpowers of their own) and spends his evenings hanging out with Frozone (or, rather, the guy who used to be Frozone, until he, too, retired) reminiscing about the glory days of rescuing kittens and punching out bad guys. Needless to say, Bob eventually finds an excuse to resume his superheroics, and before his adventures are through the whole family is in costume and fighting evil.

Comic book aficionados will recognize that almost no aspect of the plot is original, from the reason behind Mr. Incredible retirement to the the origin of the villain to the superpowers of the characters. (Violet's special abilities, in particular, seem like a copyright infringement lawsuit waiting to happen.) Surprisingly, this actually works to the film's advantage, as employing comic book archetypes let's them skip over the tedious exposition that bogs down so many superhero movies. (It's never explained, for instance, how Mr. Incredible, Elastic Girl and Frozone got their powers.) And this, in turns, allows them to focus solely on the story.

The story, incidentally, is a bit more sophisticated that you might expect. Yes, this is still a film geared primary for kids, but it makes an obvious effort to steer clear of the typical Disney movie claptrap. ("Everyone is special," says Elastic Girl to her son at one point. "That's just another way of saying nobody is special," he retorts.) And the action sequences and violence, while not overboard, earn the film its PG rating.

The one aspect of the film that I was worried about was the animation, as even Pixar hasn't quite gotten CG human beings to look right. Thankfully, they don't try and make the characters look photorealistic, and they don't shoot for full-on cartoons, either. Instead, they hit a happy medium, making Mr. Incredible and his brood look like they've been sculpted out of putty. It's somewhat ironic that the most advanced animation effects in the world are being used to emulate the primitive art of claymation, but it was a wise choice, and it looks great.

So: a hearty recommendation for The Incredibles, which may very well wind up as my #1 pick for the year. And do yourself a favor: catch the film in a cinema. You might be tempted to wait for the DVD, but seeing the movie in a theater full of kids adds immeasurably to the experience.

Posted on November 15, 2004 to Movies



Posted by: Robin on November 15, 2004 10:21 PM

I, too, loved The Incredibles. I laughed so hard that my 10-year-old son elbowed me several times, even though I'm sure he didn't quite twig to what I was laughing at in some scenes.

Posted by: Dr. Beads on November 15, 2004 10:37 PM

I found myself muttering some of the references to comics under my breath at the beginning of the film. "The Keane Act" was the one that made a couple people in the row ahead of me look back. I wasn't certain whether they got my reference or just found me annoying, so I shut up after that.

Posted by: Matthew Makous on November 16, 2004 12:18 AM

Yeah, but what about Polar Express? Hmm?

Posted by: Merkin on November 16, 2004 2:26 AM

Loved it, loved it! Pixar knows -- unlike Disney -- that it's not enough to have a technologically excellent movie. You have to have story, and characters you care about, and depth! Fantastic voice talent helps too; Holly Hunter was aces, Sam Jackson was so fun (as ever), and I love Jason Lee as a superhero-wannabe.

Posted by: Elle Wiz on November 16, 2004 5:35 AM

Yes, yes, yes. Iron Giant is one of my all time favorite movies ever and I am a 37 year old mom. Someone got it for my kids for Christmas a few years back, and we didn't watch it for a long time. I kicked myself after it was over -- why didn't I watch it sooner! the cover looked cheesy.

I heard that Brad Bird had his hand in the Incredibles, and we're going to see it on Friday. I cannot wait. From your post, the reviews, and all of the people I've spoken to, my anticipation level for this film is sky hi.

And I so hope this generates more interest in the Iron Giant. It is criminally under appreciated.


Posted by: christine on November 16, 2004 6:08 AM

I'm glad someone else finally pointed out that they looked like claymation. The scene in the ocean gave me Rudolph at the Island of Misfit Toys flashbacks, but in a good way.

Posted by: Allison on November 16, 2004 7:19 AM

Do you think a 3-yr-old would enjoy it? We had planned to go, but I didn't realize it was PG until I read your review, and now I'm wondering if it would be too much. What's your opinion? (I should add that this is an almost 3-yr-old girl who loves Star Wars and Lord of the Rings!)

Posted by: steph on November 16, 2004 7:43 AM

I'd say that most kids would enjoy it...it's more a matter of if you want to take them or not. If she's seen Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, I don't think there's anything in here that she hasn't seen before. There's some off-screen death, and some action violence (shooting things, bashing things into other things, things exploding), etc. Some kids handle that stuff OK, while others go right home and start beating their little brothers' heads into the coffee table. Since mine are the latter type, they probably won't see this movie for a few years. But I am putting it on my Amazon wishlist anyway, so I can watch it myself a few times before they calm down enough to see it without killing each other. heh

Posted by: Skane on November 16, 2004 9:38 AM

I, too, love The Iron Giant. I saw it many years ago, but at the time I wondered why more people weren't talking about it. Now I want to watch The Incredibles!

Posted by: Rhonda on November 16, 2004 9:52 AM

Also do yourself a favor and watch a digital projected version of the movie, if it is available in your area. This was my first experience with a digitally projected film and the sharpness and color quality made the experience even more incredible.

Posted by: jared on November 16, 2004 10:24 AM

I loved Iron Giant, too, so I'm glad to hear that The Incredibles is so good. I can't wait to see it.

Posted by: Beerzie Yoink on November 16, 2004 10:54 AM

I too had HUGE expectations for The Incredibles, seeing as I love pixar, and there were teaser trailers for this about 12 years ago. This was one of the very few movies that my expectations were met, and even surpassed. Later, trying to pinpoint what made me love this movie so much, I had decided one of the main reasons was, there were no special effects. All the spectacular feats, explosions and machinery were real, or just as real as the grass and pavement were. I wasn't drug out of the movie while watching it trying to figure out how they got that camera angle or by horrible editing.

I know this is a given with any animated movie, but since animation is till looked down on as being a juvenile medium, there isn't enough cleverly done animation (with the first language as english at least) for the merits of cgi to be taken for granted yet.

great movie, and let me add the short at the begining....they must of put "Boundin'" in on the chance that Bush did win....

Posted by: Sara on November 16, 2004 11:15 AM

i also loved "the incredibles," but i don't believe you when you say you likes it that much. why should i? according to the side margin, your film pick is still "garden state"

Posted by: upyernoz on November 16, 2004 11:27 AM

The soundtrack and the voice work is amazing. And, as always, I really enjoy it when they create character quirks to resemble the actors, e.g. Holly Hunter's mouth and Craig Nelson's chin.

Yeti, I have to point out that it's "Elastigirl", though. And you call yourself a fan...

Posted by: JEA on November 16, 2004 11:47 AM

I rate family movies these days by watching them with my 7-year old son. If he laughs hysterically and cannot contain his urge to comment: thumbs up!

Shark Tale? Bah. Too many stereotypes he didn't recognize or care to learn.

Incredibles? Weeee! Funny! Family/people funny. They didn't attempt to make it humorous on adult and kid levels. They made it smart and funny all around.

There's no reason a 41-year old man, a 38 year old woman, a 13-year old girl and a 7-year old boy can't find the same things hysterical for the same reason. We do every day in our lives--why stop when we enter the theater?

We love Iron Giant too!

Posted by: kbow on November 16, 2004 12:35 PM

kbow sez ->
There's no reason a 41-year old man, a 38 year old woman, a 13-year old girl and a 7-year old boy can't find the same things hysterical for the same reason.


Who's watching whom? You just described the Parr family. More or less.

I guess I'm nto quite as hepped up as most of the other commenters. I could have written half the movie. Or is that half the point? I don't mean the characters - I mean the plot pivots were very predictable. I got to the point where I thought the movie overlong. When was this baby gonna end?

I did enjoy the quality of a digital projection, but why did they have reel-change marks in the corner? On a digital projector?

I enjoyed the basic development of the movie and all the references to other movies. I kept thinking "Dr. No" and hearing the James Bond theme. I also saw lots of veiled references to the Star Wars movies -- fun details.

Good movie - go see it with your kids. Or borrow some to take with you. But movie of the year? My expectations are yet unfulfilled.

Posted by: Turkey Talker on November 16, 2004 2:16 PM

The funniest moment in the movie for me was when Syndrome had Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl in his little immobilizing beam and you see the light bulb go off over his head.

"You married Elastigirl?" points to kids "And got busy?!?!?"

I'm pretty sure I spit popcorn over at least three rows laughing at that.

Posted by: Charlie Gordon on November 16, 2004 3:01 PM

Matt, are you sure we weren't seperated at birth? You preferences for movies and board games are always spot on, I loved The Incredibles, and Iron Giant, and I've bought a number of board games just on your recommend. Please continue to use your powers only for good, and never for evil, or I'll end up with a bunch of crappy board games.

Thank you.

Posted by: jesse on November 16, 2004 3:03 PM

I have been somewhat afraid to rave to my friends about The Incredibles, but couldn't hold myself back, and thankfully even though i talked about it as the best-movie-ever, they thought so too!
I wouldn't understand the person who didn't find this movie totally entertaining (see above comment)"My expectations are yet unfulfilled."
I was glad to have a 7-year-old to take along, but don't be embarrased if you go it sans child!

Posted by: Jasper on November 16, 2004 3:30 PM

HA! i got matt to change the featured movie thing on the right hand sidebar. i have the ultimate power here! don't mess with me.

Posted by: upyernoz on November 16, 2004 6:39 PM

I am sooooooooooooo looking forward to UK opening day...every review on the blogosphere has nothing but praise for it (and nothing but doom for the surely inevitably-weak-by-comparison FF movie!!).

Posted by: David O MacGowan on November 17, 2004 6:09 AM

I hate kids TV but I love kids movies. Consequently, my baby girl can be taken to the movies and about 95% of the time...she just watches the movie! She seemed to really enjoy 'Into the Void' when she was 4 mos. old. I'm sure we'll be seeing this movie ASAP.

Posted by: Miel on November 17, 2004 10:34 AM

Don't think of The Incredibles as a kids movie. Just 'cuz it is animated doesn't mean it is only for kids. Animation is not a genre, it is just another medium for storytelling and Brad Bird exploits it brilliantly. The Incredibles is not just a great animated movie. It is just a great movie. Period. Hooray for The Incredibles!

BTW - for all you Iron Giant fans and newbies the 2-Disc Special Edition DVD for Iron Giant is out. Check it out: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B00009M9BK/102-4009229-3369729?v=glance

Posted by: narineh on November 17, 2004 11:16 AM

The Incredibles was EXCELLENT! I highly recommend it for all ages. My 6 year old son and I laughed throughout the whole movie. I think PIXAR outdoes itself every movie it releases. I also feel it should be seen in a theater as opposed to DVD, it seems like it would lose some of the quality on anything smaller and quieter than a IMAX Theater screen!

Posted by: Jessie Street on November 17, 2004 1:08 PM

"Long-time listener, first time caller..."

If you're a fan of Brad Bird, then you simply must find an old VHS copy of "Family Dog" (originally aired on "Amazing Stories" back in the 80s, and released on video with the Christopher Lloyd episode where he loses his head (not my favourite))
It's a hilarious take on 60s family sitcoms, and prepares us for the kind of work he would contribute to "The Simpsons" as creative and executive consultant.
One of the funniest half hours of television I've seen,,,

Posted by: bud on November 18, 2004 4:21 AM