2004-11-19 / Columnists


By Robert Snyder

The real villain in the new Pixar/ Disney animation feature, “The Incredibles,” is status quo and the faceless lawyers who enforce it. After a series of lawsuits, ultra-strongman Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) and wife Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) are pushed into pretending to be Bob and Helen Parr, a “normal” suburban couple with their crime-fighting wings clipped. They have children, Violet (Sarah Vowell) and Dash (Spencer Fox), who also keep their super talents in the closet. Power-wise, their baby is still an unknown quantity.

As with Clark Kent in the “Superman” series, faking normalcy is what’s best about “The Incredibles.” Now a flabby insurance claims adjuster, Bob can barely squeeze into his car, which he damages whenever he closes its door. Dash is told not to compete in school sports for fear that his super speed will be revealed. To compensate, he performs too-quick-to-catch pranks in class. Blessed or cursed with powers of invisibility and force field creation, Violet is simply becoming another withdrawn adolescent. Helen stays home and does the wash.

To maintain their sanity, Bob and his secret superhero friend, Lucius Best/ Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson), sneak a little crime-fighting on their bowling nights. But, Helen suspects something when she finds a stitched-up tear in her husband’s super suit. Again, it’s not villains like the Underminer (John Ratzenberger) or Syndrome (Jason Lee) whom the heroes fear, it’s the lawyers, ready to pounce on any acts outside the box of banality. With Pixar struggling to be free of the Disney yoke, one can only surmise that writer/ director Brad Bird (“The Simpsons,” “The Iron Giant”) is sending out a message amidst the cinematic excitement.

And, there is plenty of excitement in “The Incredibles”  as evil genius Syndrome, frustrated by his normalcy, sucks the Parrs back into superhero work only to render them impotent. Syndrome’s goal is that with his inventions, “Everyone will be super, which means that no one will be.” That axiom fits Bob’s fear that the authorities “keep finding new ways to celebrate mediocrity.” Take your kids to see “The Incredibles.” There’s nothing mediocre about it.

‘The Incredibles’—Battling Banality

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