In the Golden Years, life was good and superheroes were always around to help out. Then people thought it would be a good idea to sue for that whiplash they suffered when Mr. Incredible stopped a subway from plunging off it's track. Suddenly everyone wants a piece of the supers, and the government decides it can't afford to keep supporting them against a shortsighted and outraged public. "It's time for their secret identity to become their only identity." Life was never quite the same, for the supers... or for us...
Some years later we see Bob (Craig T. Nelson) and Helen Parr (Holly Hunter) still struggling to make a "normal" life with their three children; Violet (Sarah Vowell), Dash (Spencer Fox) and infant Jack Jack (Eli Fucile and Maeve Andrews. The former Mr. Incredible works for an insurance company now, and he's greatly discouraged by how little he is able to help people in this corporate position. Elastigirl, Helen, is more content with the challenges she meets as a mother of three, but she worries over Bob's obvious dissatisfaction and late "bowling" nights with best friend and former crime fighting super Lucius (Samuel L. Jackson) aka Frozone.
Violet and Dash echo the general dissatisfaction felt by their parents. She's too shy and uses her power to disappear in the crowds at school all the time. A difficult teacher almost catches Dash on camera putting a tack on his chair. Mom is not pleased, and yet she can't seem to rouse a proper level of concern in Bob when discussing it at the dinner table. Bigger trouble for the Parr family is lurking just within the shadows though...
A former fan has developed into Syndrome, a dangerously imbalanced inventor bent on world domination through commerce and careful manipulation of media. "See? Now you respect me, because I'm a threat. That's the way it works. Turns out there are lots of people, whole countries, that want respect, and will pay through the nose to get it. How do you think I got rich? I invented weapons, and now I have a weapon that only I can defeat, and when I unleash it..." Bob didn't want to endanger his family, or argue with Helen so he's kept his return to superhero work under wraps. When Bob goes missing and his family comes looking for him... who will be left to save this family of heroes?
Written and directed by Brad Bird, this 2004 Disney/Pixar film is an amazing family entertainment. Filled with fantastic animation and solidly constructive messages for viewers of all ages, The Incredibles stands up to repeated viewing well. I loved the realistic way in which so much of this fantasy film was handled. From the fights between Bob and Helen to the texture of moving water in a variety of shots, these touches really add to the film. Everyone enjoys watching Bob put his anal retentive boss who is more concerned about the company's assets than actually helping clients through the wall... err, walls. Why? Because we've all known someone just like that and wished we could do exactly the same thing!
I loved watching Helen confront Bob after a night of secret superhero work with buddy Lucius very much as if he had been stepping out on her. Picking up a tiny particle on his shoulder, just like an errant hair that wouldn't match the wife's, "Is this rubble?" was quite amusing for the adults. Ultimately, the only problems the Parr family are really facing are that they are working so very hard on not being themselves, that they aren't working as a team.
Bob tries to smooth things over with the kids, "But that's okay, because the important thing is that your mother and I are a team, united against the forces of..."
"Pigheadedness?" Helen fills in.
"I was gonna say evil." He shrugs.
Yep, clear indication of trouble! Violet, Dash, and Bob all express their irritation with not being able to fully be themselves and work together as a family... even when they don't consciously realize that this is at the heart of their dissatisfaction. "What does anyone in this family know about being normal?" I was particularly impressed with Bob's eventual revelations about himself and their family.
"I'm sorry. I've been a lousy father, blind to what I have. So obsessed with being undervalued that I undervalued all of you." and his admitting that the reason he worked so hard to keep all this from his family was because he simply wasn't strong enough to withstand the possibility of loosing them are Huge advances for an individual to make. Just realizing such things on a personal level could take years before one would even be in a place to admit them aloud. I think we've all felt undervalued at times, kids or adults, and we can all relate to Bob's issues.
The action is fast-paced and a real visual treat. The dialogue is equally quick-witted, amusing to all generations and the vocal talents used here support the film extremely well. Syndrome, voiced by Jason Lee, really shone as the villain, and some of his lines are just priceless for adults, especially comic book fans like Lee himself. When Mr. Incredible threatens the life of Syndrome's partner, his skeptical reply, "That sounds a little dark for you." always makes me laugh.
Many of the supporting characters are equally entertaining and help to contribute to the overall success of the story. Edna "E" Mode as the designer of the supers' suits is priceless. Brad Bird did an amazing job voicing this character loosely modelled after Edith Head, a famous costumer designer. The two disc set of this DVD is loaded with extras, like a short featuring what happened between Jack Jack and Kari the baby sitter, and I really enjoyed exploring the extras with this one.
There are a lot of implied deaths in this film, sometimes quite gruesome deaths at that, and even more subtly implied sexual situations with Helen pulling Bob back into the house as he's leaving for work and Syndrome's comment about him and Elastigirl "getting bizzay!". Such implications are easily overlooked by the youngest generations, and really shouldn't concern parents. The danger the Parr family faces is presented as very real without dwelling on the details, and Helen tells the children at one point, "Remember the bad guys on the shows you used to watch on Saturday mornings? Well, these guys aren't like those guys. They won't exercise restraint because you are children. They will kill you if they get the chance. Do not give them that chance."
Letting go of your children and trusting them to handle themselves well is perhaps the most difficult challenge any parent faces, even more so for supers like the Parrs. Yet, once Bob and Helen both confront their fears and doubts, once the family is allowed to be their skilled individual selves... the feats they pull off are truly amazing. A good lesson for all of us. Just because we want to protect out children doesn't mean that they are unaware of the situation or that they are incapable of not only protecting themselves, but rescuing us as well.
Loaded with funny moments, social commentary, and good messages this film is one of the best animated family films ever made. I would love to see the saga of the Incredibles continue to develop, and am just a bit disappointed that other films geared towards kids have sequels in the works but not, to my knowledge, this exemplary work. A neighborhood boy on his tricycle caught Bob getting ready to toss his car in sheer frustration one day. Ever since then the boy, Rusty, hangs around the Parr house, hoping. Bob asks him finally, "Well? What are you waiting for?!"
"I don't know." The boy replies, "Something amazing... I guess."
"Me too." Bob counters, and I can easily echo that sentiment on any given day. We are all waiting for something amazing in our lives, I think, and just like Bob we are often overlooking the treasures glittering right before our eyes. While this film probably won't change any lives, it will certainly open a few eyes, and it may even get a few people thinking. How super is that?
Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Good for Groups
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children up Ages 8
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