Fri, Nov 05, 2004 - Page 16 News List

Suspend your disbelief for a middle-aged

'The Incredibles' brings unparalleled animation to the silver screen

By Christopher Lloyd  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE

The Incredibles is the movie that computer-generated animation has been waiting to do. Or maybe The Incredibles was waiting around for CG animation to catch up with its outsized ambitions. Either way, one fits into the other like sliding a skintight super-suit over a well-muscled torso: They look like they were made for each other.

The latest home run from Pixar -- the studio behind Monsters, Inc and Finding Nemo -- is about a family of superheroes, and its look is as bold and neon-intense as the subject implies. With more than a dozen slam-bang action scenes, the movie comes at you like a showoff itching to display all its best tricks ... except it lives up to the hype -- and then some.

Take, as just one for-instance, the bit where the family's middle child is running away from the bad guys at super-speed. The pace grows faster and faster as he dodges their deadly bladed whirligig vehicles, careening off trees and through cave tunnels, and generally making the speeder bike chase in The Return of the Jedi look positively leaden. Then the boy is chased into the ocean, and he looks down and realizes he's running on water -- something he didn't even know he could do. He hoops and hollers with joy as the race jumps to a whole new level of excitement.

Essentially, The Incredibles feels like a 1950s comic book that's been jabbed with Captain America's super-soldier formula and sprung to brawny, brash 3-D life. It has the iconic look of that era but exudes hip, modern sensibilities. For instance, the idea that the superhero business would be shut down by lawsuits has a very 21st century flavor.

This duality is not surprising, considering the film was written and directed by Brad Bird and produced by John Walker, a pair of Pixar rookies who created 1999's wonderful (and woefully underappreciated) animation gem, The Iron Giant. In making the move to Pixar, they're like a pair of kids who've had to make do with a broken set of Tinker Toys, and are suddenly let loose in an FAO Schwarz store.

Film Notes:

The Incredibles

Directed by: Stephen Daldry

Starring: The voices of Craig Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel Jackson, Jason Lee, Spencer Fox, Brad Bird, Wallace Shawn, Sarah Vowell, Elizabeth Pena

Running time: 115 minutes

Taiwan Release: today


Set in a generic mid-century metropolis, the story opens with the marriage of the super-strong Mr. Incredible (voice of Craig Nelson) to Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), whose name says it all. The whole city seems to be teeming with super-folk, among them Mr. Incredible's best bud, the also aptly named Frozone (Samuel Jackson).

But everyone has to hang up their costumes after a rash of legal trouble (Mr. Incredible is sued for saving the life of a man attempting suicide). Flash 15 years later, and the buff Mr. Incredible has become regular old Bob Parr, an insurance adjustor with a receding hairline and expanding paunch. His wife Helen is too busy wrangling their kids -- speedster Dash (Spencer Fox), disappearing teen Violet (Sarah Vowell) and normal baby Jack Jack -- to regret the loss of her former life. But it weighs Bob down like an anchor. The slump-shouldered posture of surrender he presents to his screeching boss (Wallace Shawn) says everything, as does his look of resignation when he must cram his massive, hulking shoulders into the tiny econo-box car he drives to work.

His shot at redemption arrives in the form of a mysterious employer who hires him to defeat a runaway robot, helping bulk up his ego and his bank account. But there's more than meets the eye, and it's all tied up with Syndrome (Jason Lee), a superhero wannabe Mr. Incredible knew way back when.

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