Last Friday we had a terrific evening with the Reynolds and went to see The Incredibles at the Seattle Cinerama. Seattle’s hip crowd was out for the 9:55 showing, with hardly a person over 35 or under 20 braving the cold in a long line to the door. Let me interject here to make a plug for some of the best Chinese food I’ve ever had, a little place across from the Cinerama called Chinese Wok. I go there every time I see a movie at this theater, and Seattle’s local police seem to agree with me. Anyway, it was a packed house where we had the usual hassle finding a seat. The Revenge of the Sith trailer got some cheers, and made me wonder if some of the attendees hadn’t come more for that than for the movie.
The Incredibles turned out to be not only a work of art in animation terms, but also competitive with some of the best live action films I’ve seen in the last ten years. The art direction struck me most of all; the characters exist in a nostalgic universe with international-style buildings and James Bond-esque evil villain decor, comfortable California ranch houses, and mid-twentieth century newsreels. The character designs have surpassed the stiff realism of Final Fantasy and the awkardness of the humans in Toy Story into something that Rankin-Bass should have been: well-sculpted action figures capable of extraordinary emotion and stretchy movement. This is a beautiful film from start to finish, and yet that’s only the backdrop.
The story has everything you could hope for on a Friday night, from fast action to drama, and when it means to be funny I can’t think of a joke that fell flat. It also had some instances of poignancy and depth. As Mr. Incredible sludges through his job and the repetetive nature of his family life, a sense of hollowness becomes very real. Some of the early family scenes are so bleak that they literally gave me nightmares. There are the usual Pixar instances where I question exactly what they are trying to say, such as the deeply negative attitude towards insurance companies or the dynamic between government and “super hero tolerance.” In fact, the “let’s all be normal and hide our specialness” theme has a certain ring to it that is right at home in Pixar’s San Francisco. It doesn’t matter. Everything works so well together, The Incredibles is ultimately Brad Bird’s finest hour. It’s no stretch to predict that his relationship with Pixar will continue for the rest of his career.