Pixar’s sixth feature film release, The Incredibles, looked to repackage the super-hero and crime-thriller genres into a family friendly offering. Riding high on the exceptional success, commercially and critically, of Finding Nemo, Pixar were obviously hoping that along with their own family fan base, they could engage the superhero demographic and have another monster hit on their hands. This paid dividends with a return of over $631m from a budget of $92m. So while not quite in the same company as Marlin and friends, it received very successful box office takings.
After a series of law-suits cripple ‘supers’ (people with super-powers), many retire and go into a protection program that places them back into normal society. Years later, Bob Parr, formerly Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) is struggling to adapt to his new role as head of a family, living a normal life. His wife Helen (Holly Hunter) and kids Dash (Spencer Fox) and Violet (Sarah Vowell) have developed powers, but are told to keep them under wraps to avoid trouble. One night while listening to the police radio with his friend Lucius Best AKA Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson), Bob gets himself involved in superhero activities, leading to him being hired to try and stop a new super-villain called Syndrome (Jason Lee) before he can give everyone in the world powers, thus rendering nobody special.
Unlike previous releases from the studio, The Incredibles had a huge number of locations that needed to be created (almost 3 times as many as Finding Nemo) and the director Brad Bird decided to shoot it more like a standard film, by creating the environments and then placing a virtual camera in them before finally adding the characters. This technique gives the film a somewhat alien effect within the early Pixar canon and the subject matter. When combined with the far more adult content such as work dissatisfaction, family strife and melancholy nostalgia, sets The Incredibles apart as a unique animated Pixar release.
However like the most classic films from Pixar, The Incredibles has pathos, character, quick-witted dialogue and a clichÃ©d narrative that somehow seems fresh and interesting. The voice cast are largely excellent, with special praise reserved for Samuel L. Jackson, Jason Lee and Holly Hunter. Sadly after a blistering start, there is a lull in pure entertainment terms when the action is focused on how the ˜supers’ are coping with their more mundane existences. Here The Incredibles drifts into drama and in fact, dangerously close to melodrama.
So with an uneven tone, The Incredibles fails to reach the heady heights of previous Pixar films like Toy Story and Finding Nemo, but it is still an excellent and engaging animated caper.