The Incredibles (2004)

Rating: ****
Review Date: 1/1/08
Director: Brad Bird
Cast: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Jason Lee, Samuel L. Jackson, Elizabeth Peña

A delightful action adventure romp that captures the spirit of silver age comics with an injection of 1960's style, sensibility, and wit. In a depressingly contemporary depiction of no good deed going unpunished, people start suing superheroes for their tireless efforts to make the world a better place. As a result, they are eventually forced to give up crime fighting and live in anonymity. One such couple is Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) and Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), who also have to deal with the challenge of raising three kids with super powers. Mr. Incredible spends his miserable days working at a soul-sucking insurance company and pining for the good old days of crime fighting. On Wednesday nights, he sneaks out of the house with his pal Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) to scan the police bands and find heroic things to do. Unfortunately, his actions catch the attention of a new super criminal named Syndrome (Jason Lee) who has a personal score to settle with him. Ultimately, the entire family has to pull together and use their super powers to defeat Syndrome and save the world from his sinister plans.

Having been jaded by Pixar's recent offerings and not overly thrilled by the character design in the movie, I was initially reluctant to watch it. However, I was pleasantly surprised by its sense of fun and adult sensibilities, and it's free of the cruelty and black comedy that tends to weigh down the classic Pixar formula. It's one of the strongest films in Pixar's library, and ironically the most non-Pixar film of the bunch. While the character designs aren't particularly interesting or attractive, the animation and voice acting really brings them alive. The characters themselves are delightful, the writing is tight and clever, and the voice performers are superb. As you would expect from Pixar, the animation is wonderful. While stylistically simplistic, it still contains an amazing amount of detail and the animators have done an incredible job of breathing life into the world they've created. The music score does a great job of setting the tone and complementing the 1960's styling with its "James Bond" and "Mission: Impossible" inspired refrains. The frantic and hyper-kinetic action scenes are truly spectacular and really allow the characters to shine. Overall, this is a fun, smart, and funny film with multiple layers that the whole family can enjoy.