"Finding Nemo" step aside! Pixar has done it again. And, it's a good thing
for the entertainment starved people out there that animation writer-director
Brad Bird hung in for another try after his weak-kneed "Iron Giant," which
didn't appear to be such a crowd pleaser. Do these folks know how to put a
blazing action adventure story together, or what?! The Pixar producers and
other team geniuses have the formula down, and it's anything but formulaic.
What formula does underlying a superbly crafted animated comedy is simply
good storytelling, starting with a central character we can get thoroughly
involved with, and in and creating zippingly good action with a human twist.
Immensely well-thought out conflict choreography and eye-pleasing visual
design doesn't hurt.
This guy, big Bob Parr, aka Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) starts out as a
superhero among superheros, with an obsession to save people and send bad
guys behind bars. We immediately note his heartfelt good and... that he's
just a tad overzealous about it.
His peers include Parr's pal Lucius Best, aka the icemaking Frozone (Samuel L.
Jackson) who shares his do-goodism, and Helen, aka, Elastigirl (Holly
Hunter), with whom he argues over whom to credit for the apprehension of yet
another elusive perp, as though they're starved for good deed recognition.
But, hey, it's all in good fun, we find out, since Bob and Helen have an
important date later.
Bob is also hounded by fans and the most boisterous of them is an obnoxious
little groupie with big hair who wants to set himself up as Mr. Incredible's
"ward," costume and all. But, Bob ain't havin' it. He's got more important
things to do, like the conquest of a crime wave. But this is not an ordinary
rejection, either, as he'll learn later.
Any case, superhero rescues cause collateral city damage which gets out of
hand and the politicians enter the picture. Soon, it becomes unlawful for
these characters with special strengths to practice their craft. The result
is that Bob and his fellow "supers" are banned from the skies and alleys and
banished to the Superhero protection program.
Whereupon we pick the story up a few years later where banishment to the
'burbs finds Bob as a very poorly adjusted insurance adjuster. Civilian
domesticity includes Helen, aka Elastigirl Parr, by now his faithful
rule-enforcing wife, and their 3 little superheros in development. There's
teenage Violet who can disappear herself in parts and throw protection
shields when her energy level and mental control are up to it; their
pre-teener who can move so fast he's nearly invisible to a security camera;
and baby, whose speciality has yet to reveal itself.
All of which will be put to the test when Mirage (Elizabeth Pena) invites Bob
to re-don his costume for some action on a remote idland that turns out to be
the evil lair of Syndrome (Jason Lee), that big hair fan from yesteryear
who, though not a true superhero, has scientifically and demonically devised
machines and apparati that even a superhero has real difficulties with. This
little Jack Black type demon has re-invented himself as a most worthy
pain-in-the-ass nemesis for the big guy.
Taking on the functions of "Q" is Edna Mode (voiced by the writer-director
himself, Brad Bird), a gal who, instead of outfitting 007 with a high concept
arsenal for his assignment, looks after the super suits which she designs to
match the superhero. She does this with great care, elan and perfect
All of which, again, is in an envelope of high paced action, supercleaned
language (for the "Nemo" contingents), rib-tickled, jaw-dropped,
violence-enwrapped, non-stop inventiveness. It has everything to muscle its
way into your admiration: last millisecond escapes, kids subverting the bad
guys with their special skills, and homey values to make a soccer mom
The casting is another part of that Pixar genius and, while there isn't a
weak larynx in the bunch, the special qualities of Holly Hunter's voice and
delivery style is a marvel that's only been awaiting such a knockout
opportunity. She does for this boxoffice heavyweight what Ellen Degeneres
did with equal singularity for "Nero."
This is the comics of the 21st century, in the fullest realization of the
term. If you don't love it I've got a nice flat for you on Mars. Meanwhile,
records for boxoffice receipts look out. There's a new bonanza on the
Oh, for a piece of it...!
~~ Jules Brenner