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Thursday, Nov. 4, 2004 12:15 pm

movie review

The Incredibles

The Incredibles actually lives up to its title

Halfway through The Incredibles, Pixar's latest animated epic, my 4-year-old assistant Nathan declared: "This is the greatest movie I've ever seen in my whole life!" My other assistant, Nathan's 7-year-old brother Alex, concurred at the end of the film, stating emphatically that he had just seen "the greatest movie I ever saw." There you have it: two brothers discovering the Citizen Kane of their generation.

Adults may temper their enthusiasm just a bit after seeing The Incredibles, but it will be easy for them to see why my two stepsons reacted the way they did and why others their age will do the same. This is a rock-'em, sock-'em explosion of animation and wit that holds its own with the state-of-the-art live-action superhero epics that have come to dominate the box office in recent years. That the visuals on display are stunning is only part of what we've come to expect from the studio. Like the Toy Story films and Monsters, Inc., The Incredibles sports a compelling, imaginative story, buoyed by wit and in-jokes, that straddles the line between parody and a postmodern take on the superhero myth. Sure, the kids will be dazzled by the spectacle of the film, as will grownups, but, like all of Pixar's movies, it doesn't pander to them and actually contains a story geared more toward adults and their anxieties.

Bob Parr (voice by Craig T. Nelson) may appear to be a mild-mannered claims adjuster at the insurance company he works for, but he has a secret: He was once known as Mr. Incredible, the greatest of all superheroes and was forced to go into the Superhero Relocation Program after he and his metahuman cohorts faced the one enemy their superpowers couldn't defeat -- lawyers. Since his exile, Bob has been living a life of superdesperation, despite the cheery disposition of wife Helen, also known as the every-stretching Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), and his three healthy children, Violet, Dash, and Jack-Jack.

However, Bob finally gives in to temptation and begins performing clandestine superdeeds with fellow exile Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson). He comes to the attention of a mysterious woman named Mirage (Elizabeth Peña), who offers Bob the opportunity to flex his massive biceps once more for an unknown client. Jetting around the world as a mercenary specializing in saving the day, he begins feeling like his old self, but the feeling comes at a price. He soon finds himself in peril, which causes his family to spring into action.

The story is told with the unbridled enthusiasm of a 10-year-old and the skill of a master visual artist, and the minute details contained in the film -- from each hair in Mr. Incredible's knitted brows to the memorabilia that clutters the superhero's den -- are rendered with love and reverence for the superhero myth. For those familiar with writer/director Brad Bird's previous film, the unjustly overlooked The Iron Giant, this will come as no surprise. Bird espouses the notion that heroics come from being true to yourself and that we're all capable of great deeds. The Incredibles delivers this message unabashedly and inventively and proves one of the best films of the year.

Also in theaters this week. . .

Alfie [R] Jude Law stars in remake of film about a cockney womanizer whose failing health makes him reevaluate his life and actions. Parkway Pointe, ShowPlace West

Friday Night Lights [PG-13] Chronicles the 1988 season of the Permian High Panthers in football-obsessed Odessa, Texas. Based on H.G. Bissinger's book. ShowPlace West

The Grudge [R] An American nurse living in Japan is exposed to a mysterious virus that locks people in a powerful rage before killing them. ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East

Ladder 49 [PG-13] A firefighter trapped in a fire that's likely to kill him, reviews his life. Parkway Pointe

Ray [PG-13] Jamie Foxx portrays musical legend Ray Charles. ShowPlace West

Saw [R] A man wakes up in a dark room, chained to a pipe. On the other side of the room, another man, also chained. A recorded message says the second man must kill the first, or his wife and daughter will die. Parkway Pointe, ShowPlace East

Shall We Dance [PG-13] Frustrated middle-aged accountant has a troubled marriage, spots a dancer, and discovers his passion of, um, ballroom dancing. ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East

Shark Tale [PG] The son of the shark mob boss is found dead and a fish named Oscar is at the scene of the crime. ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East

Shaun of the Dead [R]A man tries to turn his life around by winning back an ex-girlfriend, reconciling with his mother, and dealing with an entire community of zombies. Parkway Pointe

Surviving Christmas [PG-13] A depressed record executive returns to his childhood home and asks the family who lives there to take him in for the holidays. They have their own problems. Parkway Pointe

Taxi [PG-13] A rookie cop tries to connect a bank-robbing beauty to a series of recent burglaries. He gets his tips from a mouthy cab driver. Parkway Pointe

Team America: World Police [R] Marionette superheroes are on a mission to end terrorism and eliminate tired celebrities. From the creators of South Park. Parkway Pointe

Woman Thou Art Loosed [R] Chronicles a woman's struggle to come to terms with abuse, addiction, and poverty. Adaptation of Bishop T.D. Jakes' self-help novel. ShowPlace East

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