Are cartoons -- sorry, "animated features" -- for kids or adults? Since computers have revived animation, they have increasingly been aimed at both -- usually making them sure-fire winners at the box office, too. Jokes are written for adults, as in the Shrek films, and the messages are even directed at Mom and Dad, as in Finding Nemo. But these are still at least nominally aimed at kids. The Incredibles, however, might be the first animated feature aimed at the young at heart more than at actual children.
It used to be that if you didn't have kids, you'd have to grab a niece or nephew to justify your trip to the latest animated feature. But Pixar has made it OK for all ages to attend. Since the first Toy Story, their work has been excellent, both technically and artistically, with stunning visuals and amazing attention to detail. The Incredibles is more proof of their amazing skills, and it fully deserves its Oscar. Still, while it may be Pixar's best-looking film, I think it's their weakest.
While first-time Pixar director Brad Bird brings a couple of original flourishes to his superhero saga (frivolous lawsuits as a kind of Kryptonite and the villain's back-story), it's nearly as derivative as any remake of a 1970s TV series. The super heroes are lifted right out of DC and Marvel comics, and the sets borrow freely from the James Bond films. This makes it a nostalgic trip for many grown-ups -- proving the film is geared more toward adults -- but it also makes it far less original than Pixar's best film,
While I'm quibbling over what is a really good movie, I might as well bring up that it also suffers from too long a running time (107 minutes) and that it earns its PG rating, with a truly scary villain and scenes of life-and-death peril.
But there's plenty to like. Pixar is great at creating stylish and immersive environments, and their choice of a '60s vibe -- from the family home to the musical score -- takes the whole package up a notch. (Don't miss the retro end credits; they're a visual treat.)
And once the action kicks into high gear, about an hour into the film, it's a wild ride you won't forget, whether you're actually 10 years old or just want to feel like it.
Publication date: 03/17/05