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The Incredibles (****)
Directed by Brad Bird
Written by Brad Bird
The Incredibles
Principal Cast
Craig T. Nelson -- Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible (voice)
Holly Hunter -- Helen Parr/Elastigirl (voice)
Samuel L. Jackson -- Lucius Best/Frozone (voice)
Jason Lee -- Buddy Pine/Syndrome (voice)
Dominique Louis -- Bomb Voyage (voice)
Teddy Newton -- Newsreel Narrator (voice)
Jean Sincere -- Mrs. Hogenson (voice)
Eli Fucile -- Jack Jack Parr (voice)
Maeve Andrews -- Jack Jack Parr (voice)
Wallace Shawn -- Gilbert Huph (voice)
Ratings are based on Rick's four star system.
One star - the commercials are more entertaining than the viewing.
Two stars - watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars - good solid entertainment.
Four stars - you never dreamed viewing could be this good.
Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rick Norwood

The Incredibles has everything going for it except originality.

It is very enjoyable but not transcendently great. Essentially it takes Stan Lee's idea for the Fantastic Four -- superheroes who have problems with their job, family, and love life -- and applies a budget, technical polish, and special effects far beyond the Lee and Kirby creation. It bears roughly the same relation to The Fantastic Four that the Star Trek films bore to the original television Star Trek. The films are technically far superior -- but the TV episodes came first. Something has been lost, something gained. The Incredibles is a classic example of why I hold in reserve the right to award a film five stars. It hasn't happened yet. But I'm waiting for a film that is that good.

The Incredibles is good enough to make it worthwhile thinking about some of the issues it raises. The family of superheroes kills a lot of people -- even the kids kill people. This is a good thing -- not that killing is good, but to acknowledge that superheroes will find themselves in situations where they have to kill is good. But the killing is made palatable by having every henchman a carbon copy of every other henchman. What would it do to the film if one of the henchman, for example, stuffed a paperback book into his back pocket before going out to die.

There has been a lot of chatter on the web drawing analogies between The Incredibles and the presidential race. This is just post-election jitters. Insofar as the film has a message, the message is that the cult of mediocrity is killing us. And both political parties play to the lowest common denominator and appoint incompetent people to high office. Neither Bush nor Kerry is more than two standard deviations away from the mean. Superheroes are science fiction. The fun here is to ask a science fiction question. What if pigs could fly? What if there really were superheroes?

Is it OK for superheroes to compete against ordinary humans in sports? This is a question asked by both this film and by the current season of Smallville. Superboy's football games are, it seems to me, used to show that Clark is only human, that he is not yet the paragon of virtue he will become. In The Incredibles, we are expected to cheer a superhero who competes in sports. I have a problem with that. It reminds me uncomfortably of the cases where people have faked handicaps in order to compete in the Special Olympics or where genetic males have competed in women's events in the Olympics. It's like a heavyweight fighting a lightweight in the boxing ring.

Throughout the film are subtle in-jokes, with references ranging from The Fantastic Four to Kingdom Hospital. But the in-jokes are just a little spice for the au courant, not a major source of humor like the in-jokes of so many animated films following Aladdin.

Brad Bird not only writes and directs, he also supplies the voice of Edna, by far the best voice in the film. I'm glad for his sake that the film is a success, and will help sales of his even better film, The Iron Giant.

There are no credit cookies, but there are storyboards throughout the credits.

Copyright © 2004 Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.

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