Sunday, November 14, 2004

Looking To The Stars: The Incredibles - A Review

My first day off in nearly a week and what's the first thing I do? Well, sleep in and then finish off the last of the homework assignment due in two days. And then I go to mail off my mother's birthday card. But thankfully for all good comic reading people everywhere and other regulars of this column, this only took me until about 12:30 and then I did something that you all would actually care about. I want to see "The Incredibles".

Yes, this film has weighed heavily upon my mind for this past week. For as I toiled in the comic shop throughout the weekend I had many customers come into the store, fresh from either the Wizard World convention or from seeing The Incredibles. Both events, I was assured, were without equal in coolness.

And then there were those who had not seen it and asked me, "Matt. You're a knowledgeable guy about these things. How IS the movie?" What else could I do except to say that I had heard it was good, but I hadn't had the time off to see it myself... until now, that is.

The plot is surprisingly heavy stuff for what is primarily assumed to be a kid's movie. Heavy as in complex, not dark. Though it is that too. All the superheroes were forced into hiding after various lawsuits threatened to cripple the federal government that apparently authorized superheroes to do what they do. One of the foremost heroes, the super-strong and nigh-invulnerable Mr. Incredible, settles down with superheroine Elastigirl and the two settle into suburbia, where she becomes a stay-home mom to three children and he gets a job in the insurance industry.

Sadly, not all is well at home. Son Dash is a hyperactive troublemaker who wants to play on the sports teams, but can't for fear of accidentally using his superspeed powers. Daughter Violet is very much a shrinking violet, hiding behind her hair when she isn't hiding with her invisibility powers. And the former Mr. Incredible is increasingly dissatisfied with his work (which requires him to ignore people in need in favor of keeping expenses down) and is sneaking out of the house once a week with his old partner (the ice-controlling Frozone) in order to help people in secret.

All this changes after Mr. Incredible is contacted by a woman named Mirage, who offers him three times what his insurance job offered doing secret jobs for the government tracking down rogue battle droids. He accepts the job and quickly finds himself in the clutches of Syndrome; former member of Mr. Incredible's fan club, aspiring sidekick and now full-fledged super-villain. It falls to Mr. Incredible and his family to save the world from Syndreome's plans even as they struggle to save their family.

This movie is, as the title says, simple incredible. Pixar's animation has never been better and fans of their previous works will love this movie for that reason alone. The characters are paper thin and likely familiar to any avid comic book reader, with the cocky speedster and the shy invisible girl common enough to be cliché now. Still, they are enjoyable for their familiarity and everyone will find someone in the movie they can relate to as a character. Because like all the great comic books, this is less about the superpowers and more about the relationships between people.

There's only one complaint I have about the movie; there's too little of it even with nearly two hours of screen time. There is so much focus on Mr. Incredible and his mid-life crisis, that a lot of the other subplots are given shorter shrift. We don't even get to see much of the rest of the family until about an hour in when the rescue mission begins. And Samuel L. Jackson as Frozone seems woefully underused, as his appearances offer some of the best moments in the movie. In fact, he has the single funniest moment in the movie and it is totally spoiled by Disney's annoying habit of always putting their best moments in their trailers and TV advertisements.

Still, as good as Sir Samuel is, the movie is stolen by Jason Lee as Syndrome in his all but too brief (maybe five minutes total) of the whole movie. The man is a comedy genius and it's rather sad that aside from Kevin Smith and the guys who made Mumford, that nobody has given him more of a chance to showcase his comedic talents.

That's the other problem I have with the movie. Compared to Pixar's past efforts, it's just not as funny. Even allowing for the fact that this is meant to be a more dramatic picture, even the funny bits seem less funny.

Still, this movie is fun if not funny. Taken for what it is, it is amazing. And it's also a great vehicle for introducing the little ones in your life to the cool world of superheroes if you haven't done so already.

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt Website.

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