If you’re a Pixar fan, as both I and my wife (the B&T Lynne Taylor Fahnestalk) are, you’ve probably seen 2004’s The Incredibles (Figure 1), written and directed by Brad Bird. For those of you who haven’t, here’s a quick précis: The Parr family (Figure 2), consisting of Bob Parr (Craig T. Nelson), Helen Parr (Holly Hunter), daughter Violet (Sarah Vowell), younger brother Dashiell—or “Dash”—(Spencer Fox), and baby Jack-Jack (various, including Eli Fucile). Bob works for an insurance agency, handling various medical claims; Helen’s a “homemaker”; Violet and Dash are in school, and Jack-Jack’s a baby! They live in a kind of stylized, “ideal” 1950s universe (sort of Leave It to Beaver-ish) with one difference: the senior Parrs are “supers” (people with powers) and using super powers is illegal! Bob Parr, back when it was not illegal, was “Mr. Incredible,” and Helen was “Elastigirl.” (Yeah, I know; but there’s probably little to no feminine empowerment (no Women’s Lib! No Grrl Power!, etc.) in this particular universe. The two younger Parrs exhibited powers of their own—Dash is super-fast, and Violet has the power of invisibility (“Shrinking” Violet?). And as we learn in the movie, Jack-Jack is beginning to exhibit signs of super-heroism. They have a friend, Lucius Best (Samuel L. Jackson), who’s secretly the hero Frozone.
In the original film, the Incredibles defeated the non-super “Syndrome” (Jason Lee), who used incredible inventions to appear super; and we found out that a) they got into a government “witness protection program” for supers—their helper was Rick Dicker (Bud Luckey); and b) why it’s not a good idea for a super to wear a cape. At the end of the film we see them trying to defeat someone called “The Underminer” (John Ratzenberger), a kind of mole-man with a giant corkscrew digging machine.
In the sequel, Incredibles 2 (where do they come up with these clever names for sequels, do you think?), a lot has changed. Bob has lost his job as an insurance claims adjuster, their house was destroyed during the climactic fight in the first movie, and the Parrs are living in a motel. (Some of the personnel have changed behind the scenes, too. Dicker is now voiced by Jonathan Banks [Mike Ehrmantraut in Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul] after Luckey’s death, and Dash is now voiced by Huckleberry Milner.) Supers are still illegal, but that doesn’t stop the Incredible family from trying to stop The Underminer (Ratzenberger), whose scene at the end of the first movie begins this one.
They fail to catch The Underminer, who gets away with a large amount of cash—causing some serious damage in the process—and Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl are arrested by the police. “We have procedures in place,” one official yells at Mr. Incredible. “Stay back and let us do our jobs!” Of course, they’re released into the custody of Rick Dicker (a nod to Bladerunner?) and told to keep their noses clean. But there is a bright spot on the horizon; Frozone approaches them and tells them that Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk of Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad) wants to see the three of them. Deavor, a very rich CEO of a tech company, and his sister Evelyn (Catherine Keener), who’s the inventor/tech genius of the company, want Elastigirl for a project designed to rehabilitate supers in the mind of the public.
Bob/Mr. Incredible will stay home and mind the kids. One thing that makes this offer great for the family is that the government has cancelled the “super witness protection” program; Dicker has told them they will only be in the motel for two more weeks. Deavor offers them one of his houses—a very expensive place (1950s “futuristic”) with a great view of the city to live in. Elastigirl will wear a camera so the public can see firsthand what supers do to protect them. Her first project will be to stop a supertrain and save an ambassador (Isabella Rossellini); at this juncture they learn of a new supervillain who calls himself “Screenslaver”—he can control people through hypnotic use of any video screen.
Of course she does it with no loss of life or major property damage; meanwhile, Bob stays at home with an increasingly disruptive group of kids, though he assures Helen on their nightly phone call that he’s doing fine. The reality is that Violet’s having boy trouble at school, Dash’s math homework uses a version of math that Bob’s never seen, and Jack-Jack is beginning to manifest his own powers—powers like nobody else in the family has, or has seen!
The movie, of course–like all Pixar movies–ends satisfactorily, but the B&T LTF and I weren’t exactly satisfied. Let me try to figure out why.
The backgrounds, were fabulous; in fact, the whole design of this film was terrific (of course, I’m a big fan of ‘50s “futuristic”), and the soundtrack was reminiscent both of the various James Bond themes with a large dash of Jerry Goldsmith’s Our Man Flint and In Like Flint (James Coburn) themes thrown in for good measure. The character design, however… there were subtle changes that disturbed us; for example, both Bob and Violet looked harried and very tired even when they weren’t supposed to be. Even Edna “E” Mode (Brad Bird), their costume designer, looked different. There was a subtle change in Frozone that I couldn’t quite nail down.
And the storyline seemed scattered too, somehow. Besides the main quest—and the side quest it spawned—to catch Screenslaver, there were side bits, like Violet’s boy problem, and Jack-Jack’s adventures in the back yard, that didn’t really add a whole lot to the film, though parts of the Jack-Jack thing made me laugh out loud. All in all, the film just didn’t seem terribly cohesive or coherent. (And they never did catch The Underminer!)
All in all, though it was fun to watch in spots, my overall impression was that it was “okay.” I’d give it 3 flibbets (too bad; I was hoping for more). ¤¤¤
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