The Incredibles

When Disney puts out truckloads of movie paraphernalia — including Halloween costumes —weeks before a film’s release, it’s usually a good sign that the movie is overhyped.

Not in this case.

The big, scary House of Mouse promo machine isn’t too off base for the action-packed animated flick The Incredibles, one of the final collaborations to come out of the Disney/Pixar relationship.

Pixar’s ultratalented and creative animation team has struck gold again. Remember, parents, these are the people responsible for your little ones’ ad nauseam viewings of Finding Nemo and Monsters Inc.

The Incredibles may not be as infectious as Nemo or Monsters; it targets a slightly older crowd (hence the PG rating) and lacks a lovable, furry, cute or cuddly element. It’s definitely more adult-friendly, in part because of the superb storytelling abilities of director Brad Bird, who brought us the wonderful, low-tech Iron Giant. The result is a movie that has sophisticated, stylish animation coupled with a range of humor (tongue-in-cheek to goofball) that works for young and old alike.

The plot mines superhero, spy and action classics. There are nuggets reminiscent of The Tick, James Bond films, X-Men and even Spy Kids. Still, the filmmakers put in enough of their own twists to keep it fresh.

In The Incredibles, superheroes are forced to hang up their capes and take on menial, everyday existences after the criminals they’ve caught and the people they’ve saved get a little lawsuit-happy.

Mr. Incredible (a super-strong guy), now an insurance agent, is married to Elastigirl (who can stretch herself beyond imaginable limits). They have three kids who are forbidden from using their powers in public.

When an evil genius hiding on a volcanic island threatens the world, the family takes him on.

Bird makes great use of his stellar cast, thankfully devoid of run-of-the-mill, Donny Osmond-like schmucks. (Well, maybe excepting Craig T. Nelson of TV’s Coach.) But Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, Wallace Shawn and Jason Lee lend their voices, and the animators did a superb job of reflecting the actors’ unique tones and personalities.

Jackson stands out as Mr. Incredible’s colleague, Frozone. His commanding baritone and cooler-than-thou attitude translates nicely to animation. Frozone comes off as bad-ass (PG bad-ass, of course) as you’ve ever seen Jackson.

A pleasant surprise is Sarah Vowell, whom public radio fans will recognize from “This American Life,” bringing her witty discontent to Violet, the Incredibles’ teen daughter. This may be Disney’s first character with angst. Violet can make force fields at will and make herself disappear — skills any 13-year-old would kill for.

And isn’t that the point of a good superhero? To make the rest of us wish, wonder and dream about flying so fast we almost disappear, or doing chest presses with trains, or being able to put up a force field to deflect a little brother’s onslaughts? I’d say so, and apparently so would the makers of The Incredibles.

Clare Pfeiffer Ramsey writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].

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