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Review: 'Incredibles' lives up to billing

Another rousing success from Pixar

By Paul Clinton
For CNN.com

Incredibles
The Incredibles: Dash, Violet, Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl -- prepare to save the day.
YOUR E-MAIL ALERTS
Pixar
Holly Hunter
Craig T. Nelson

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- "The Incredibles" is -- yes -- incredible.

Writer/director Brad Bird ("The Iron Giant") and the wizards at Pixar Animation Studios ("Toy Story," "Monsters, Inc," and "Finding Nemo") have created a marvelous movie that works for children and adults on both an emotional and humorous level.

This is the first time Pixar has used only human characters in a film and the result is a giant step forward in computer animation. "The Incredibles" offers a wonderful story brimming with social satire and clever metaphors, all coming back to the importance of family.

Rumor has it the film cost $145 million. It's money very well spent.

The film's clever premise is grounded in a world where superheroes are commonplace. Humans now take for granted being saved -- from any type of accident or force of nature -- on a daily basis by a caped crusader.

The biggest hero of them all is the amazing Mr. Incredible, voiced by the engaging Craig T. Nelson. Sharing the kudos -- and the headlines -- is the extremely flexible Elastigirl, performed by Holly Hunter. (One of the wonders of the film is the way the animators have beautifully captured the way the actress speaks out of the side of her mouth, which gives her character added spunk and charm.) The other main superhero of the day is Fronzone (who freezes water), voiced by the ever-terrific Samuel L. Jackson.

But humans -- being human -- aren't satisfied with just having their necks saved by these socially conscious heroes. As the old saying goes, "no good deed ever goes unpunished," and people start to sue their rescuers for property damage and the like. The superheroes are forced into a relocation program, pose as mere mortals or suffer dire consequences.

Mr. Incredible, who's always had a thing for Elastigirl, pops the question and they head off to suburbia. They become Bob and Helen Parr and years go by.

Off to save the world

Nature takes its course; they now have three children and the family's individual sources of power have become delightfully witty send-ups of their real personalities.

Dad, reduced to anything but incredible, is struggling to do what is best for the family. Mom is the multi-tasking mother who is forced to "stretch" herself in order to care for her demanding brood. The two oldest children, voiced by Sarah Vowell and Spencer Fox, are young Violet (as in shrinking), a shy teenager with the ability to disappear, and son Dash (who can naturally move at supersonic speed), a stereotypically hyperactive little boy. Young Jack-Jack (voiced by Eli Fucile) has powers yet to be determined.

Syndrome
Those darned villains: Syndrome causes problems for the family.

Suddenly, Bob is summoned to a remote location in order to take part in a top-secret mission to -- what else -- save the world.

Every action-adventure movie needs a despicable villain and Jason Lee provides ample venom as Buddy Pine, also known as Syndrome.

But that's enough information, except to say that the rest of the film -- like any good tale -- keeps you guessing until the very end. The family struggles to overcome many obstacles while proving that staying together -- no matter what the cost -- is all that matters.

Magical

"The Incredibles" is more than just an entertaining family tale. The film riffs on action and spy films, particularly James Bond. Indeed, its most delightful character, Edna Mode (voiced by Bird himself in a wonderfully deadpan performance), is a clothing designer for superheroes -- a clever spin on Q, the high-tech equipment supplier in the Bond films.

Edna is an unlikely combination of Coco Chanel, Yoko Ono and George Patton. Edna determines what the superheroes will wear, thereby deciding their public image. She's a diva on steroids without a shred of self-doubt, and she single-handedly pushes the film's humor into overdrive when she enters the scene.

The people at Pixar have done it again. They've married state-of-the-art computer animation to great storytelling and have delivered a unique film full of heart, pathos and an unfailing faith in the triumph of good over evil.

The ability to entertain people of all ages with the same film is rare gift, but "The Incredibles" stays right on target. In Hollywood, that's beyond incredible. That's cinematic magic.


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