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:: The Incredibles

“They keep finding new ways to celebrate mediocrity’, laments superseded superhero Bob Parr when told of his son’s graduation…from the fourth to the fifth grade. Fifteen years after litigation forced him to retire his super identity, Bob has a loving wife and family, a soulless job in insurance, and an extra stomach. But when Bob meets mysterious Mirage, and self-aware villain Syndrome, he gets another chance to be Mr Incredible.

With The Incredibles, writer/director Brad Bird (The Iron Giant) wanted to explore what happens when a superhero’s not allowed to be super anymore. A new father himself, Bird found the script became more about family interaction – with each member possessing the superpowers that most fit their role. Mum Helen (Elastigirl) uses her super-stretching powers to organise her brood; teenage Violet’s invisibility helps her hide from cute boys, and 10-year-old Dash’s super speed is a natural extension of the terrifying hyperactivity most often found in young boys. As for baby Jack Jack: he’s full of potential, but no one yet knows how that will be realised.

Although it will enchant children and engage adults, Pixar’s latest animation film falls short of their previous offering, Finding Nemo…and the Boxing Day hype. Although the production values and the first twenty minutes promise a brilliant film, Bird delivers one that is merely entertaining. In celebrating traditional roles within a nuclear family, the story plays it just a little too safe. Despite this, The Incredibles is notable for the lifelike facial expressions of its characters, the retro futuristic set and a plot that’s structured like clockwork.

While you’ll hear some familiar voices, The Incredibles’ cast is a little less A-list than in Shreks 1 and 2. As Syndrome, Jason Lee’s snappy dialogue includes a tirade against monologuing – the traditional bane of filmic evildoers. Holly Hunter’s mellifluous voice is a standout, while Craig T Nelson perfectly inhabits Bob – so inappropriately giant and ashen-faced in an office, but a mighty force in Lycra. As for scene-stealing cameos, Bird gets all the best lines as the campy designer Edna Mole.

Perhaps it’s The Incredibles’ subtext that is most interesting. When Syndrome declares, “When everyone’s super, no one will be”, it begs the question: have we gone too far in normalising differences between the gifted and the mundane?

The Incredibles is now screening, accompanied by cute Pixar short Bouncin’.