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The Incredibles

Movies | New Pixar hit is one of the best movies of the year

Issue: "Yasser Arafat: In memoriam," Nov. 20, 2004

Pixar has done it again. The Incredibles is not just one of the best family movies of the year; it's one of the best movies of the year, period. The Incredibles (rated PG for action violence) is the first Pixar film not to be rated G, so it's not as suitable for young audiences as the studio's other animated films, but it easily ranks with Pixar's finest achievements.

In the world of The Incredibles, a prolific breed of superheroes roams the earth seeking out those in distress, operating as government-endorsed, independent contractors of justice. But in some humorous fake newsreel footage, we learn that a combination of superhero burnout and litigation (not everyone wants to be saved) has driven the "supers" underground. The government sponsors a secret relocation program that places superheroes and their families in normal society, masking their special abilities.

Bob Parr (Craig T. Nelson) has taken a job as an insurance adjuster; Helen Parr (Holly Hunter) is raising their three kids, Violet, Dash, and baby Jack Jack. Their suburban lives are a far cry from the days when Bob was known as Mr. Incredible and Helen was Elastigirl.

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Bob especially chafes in his new life. Spelling out one of the film's great (and profoundly countercultural) themes, Bob responds to his wife's insistence that he attend his son's fourth grade graduation by bemoaning it as a "celebration of mediocrity." Dash himself struggles with the same clash between politically correct psychobabble and real-world truths. "Everyone's special," his mother chides him-to which Dash responds, "Which is another way of saying nobody is."

But the film also wonderfully balances the innate desire to cultivate and use God-given gifts with the importance of responsibility, commitment, and, above all, family. Bob reemerges as Mr. Incredible when a disillusioned superhero groupie calling himself Syndrome (Jason Lee) threatens the world. The rest of his family eventually joins Bob in his quest to defeat Syndrome, but not before he learns to value his role as a father and husband as much as his role as a crime fighter.

The Incredibles takes on some surprising themes, and, overall, in a surprisingly positive manner. But some parents may be taken aback to find semi-realistic, life-threatening violence and references to divorce, suicide, and fidelity among the bright colors and flashing images of a kids' cartoon. But as a truly exciting, thoughtful piece of family entertainment, The Incredibles is among very few peers.

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