Donut Age: America's Donut Magazine

Go, Jack-Jack!

I borrowed a (deluxe 2-disk) DVD of The Incredibles from friends a little while ago, and I proceeded to watch the whole thing three times in a week (including once listening to the director's commentary track). It's really delightful, though I find it hard to say exactly why. As one would expect from a Pixar production, the 3D animation is pretty impressive — especially when compared to the conventional flat animation of, say, Madagascar — but it does have limits: I found the characters' unappealingly rubbery complexions an occasional distraction, for example. This has really been true of all the computer-animated films to date (at least from what I've seen.). Even Finding Nemo had similar issues, but they were only really noticeable when during the occasional intervals when humans were on screen.

(One thing writer/director Brad Bird's commentary revealed is that many of the most impressive feats of animation accomplished in the film are utterly lost on the vast majority of viewers — like me — because they are on screen for just a second or are so mundane as to operate below the level of conscious recognition. Apparently the single hardest thing they pulled off was a character putting his hand into a piece of clothing and having it emerge through a tear in the fabric. I'm all for attention to detail — and The Incredibles has that in spades — but if they had spent however many man-months that one micro-scene required on, say, figuring out how to make hair look like hair and not finely spun metal wire, I would probably have appreciated the result more.)

The story is fairly engaging, but a little scrutiny reveals that nearly everything in it is recycled from stock characters and plots of the superhero genre (with liberal borrowings from James Bond as well). All that material has been ground up and reconstituted in some clever ways, but that is not really the same as doing something really new with the concepts. That's not necessarily a bad thing: the familiarity of all the elements is comforting on one level, and it allows one to sit back and enjoy the playfulness with which they are handled. I like how well the characters' powers suit their personalities (invisibility is the perfect power for a shy, awkward teenage girl, as elasticity is for the harried wife-and-mother who literally bends over backwards to hold her family together). It's clear that Bird has a love for and knowledge of the genre, and that's how he keeps the film walking the fine line between homage and parody. He also adeptly creates the feeling of a whole supers-populated world outside the frame of the movie, giving it a depth many superhero movies lack.

But I think what finally lifted the movie up from pleasant to memorable is the penultimate scene, in which "normal" baby Jack-Jack Superbaby Jack-jack Parr in flaming form evidences his powers just in time to foil the evil Syndrome's attempt to kidnap him. One can almost sympathize with the plight of the unsuspecting villain as his supposedly helpless captive bursts into flame, becomes a lead weight, and then transforms into an angry demonic creature. As the parent of an infant and a toddler, I have to deal with such powers on a regular basis.