First off, this is Slashdot. You know, News for nerds, yadda yadda. So, let's start off with talking about the special effects, or more generally, Pixar showing off all that they have learned and accomplished.
The big hype in the animation sector has been the characters - real human people. Don't be fooled by the hype. Pixar has been doing humans as characters since "Toy Story". With the single exception of "A Bug's Life", human beings have featured as a major character in every Pixar film, and while the effect here is fantastic, it is evolutionary, not revolutionary. No, what stands out in terms of technical acheivement here is the movie's stunning use of light. Sure, "Finding Nemo" accomplished a lot here, but in that film, light was a tool to give depth to the water that surrounded the characters. Here in "The Incredibles" the light is a thing unto itself. Gorgeous shadows, warm red lava, sunlight against clouds, all of these things are breathtaking. The use of sunlight, especially in the jungle sequences, give objects a three dimensionality they have never possessed in a Pixar film before. It's clear that Pixar didn't have the chops prior to this film to do action sequences, because prior to this, the feeling of moving in a three dimensional space just wasn't there.
The movie itself is not just a breakthrough technically, it's a very different movie from previous Pixar productions. This is very intentional. All previous Pixar movies have been dreamed up primarily by John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton, Pixar veterans. So the story goes, these guys are looking back at Pixar history and while they see the series of wonderful made films that the rest of us have seen, apparently they also saw something else: an encroaching rut. There was a very real chance that Pixar could have become the next Disney in a very short time, making well produced and financially successful repeats of their earlier successes for years on end. They didn't want that to happen. And that takes fresh blood. Enter Brad Bird. Bird was an art student with Lasster, and had made one feature film five years ago - the sady underseen "Iron Giant". Brad Bird was challenged to make a different kind of movie, with complete creative control - he wrote and directed. This gamble paid off hugely.
This is not a kids movie. Seriously. Previous Pixar films have been consumate kids movies, movies so well made, and so funny that parents could enjoy them. And there are even a few adult gags the kids might not get. "The Incredibles" is a completely different tack. "The Incredibles" is an action movie, first and foremost, one of the best of the current crop of superhero films. Then it is a family film second, and a kids movie third, if at all.
To give you the basics: the world is full of superheros. The biggest are Mr. Incredible, super strong and invulnerable, Elastigirl, a Ms. Fantastic of sorts, and Frozone, a Silver Surfer/Iceman hybrid. Due to events that occur on Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl's wedding day, superheros wind up on the wrong end of - get this for deja vu - lawsuits. Lawsuits by the thousands. The government comes up with a relocation program, hiding the supers and pardoning them from actions performed in spandex, with the agreement that they hero no more.
Mr. Incredible becomes Bob Parr, an overweight insurance adjuster, with three kids. The symbolism is rampant. Once incredible, now he must suppress both his gifts and his insatiable need to help people, getting in trouble with his boss for actually helping their customers. From incredible, to just par. He's huge. He fills up the entirety of his cubical space, he fills up his entire car, he bends doorknobs, and cutting through his son's steak, he cuts through the table. He is too big for the small world that society wants to peg him in.
On the other hand, he's missing the one incredible part of his life - his family. His son Dash is tired of suppressing his lightning speed, and his teenage daughter Violet is tired of moving everytime the government needs to cover up her father's identity. When she can't hide behind her goth hair, she uses her powers to turn invisible. Managing the two of them and their third child, a normal baby named Jack Jack, Elastigirl is getting tired of being the only real parent.
Their marriage is strained, their kids are young and angry, his job is about to fall apart, and her patience is thin. It's a domestic situation primed to explode, and for the many of us out their who have seen couples divorce, we know exactly where it's going.
Except something happens.
And thereby hangs a tale. As you can see, this isn't some allegory about our lives from the point of view of a bug or a toy or a monster. It IS our lives. But with superpowers. Much like the also fabulous "Shaun of the Dead" the real story is a human one, but framed within spectacular events. The visuals are awesome, the special effects are fabulous, and the dialog not only funny but at times witty. I can bet that 90% of Slashdotters will see themselves on screen, most likely identifying with the daughter Violet or the villain Syndrome.
The performances are of course amazing. Pixar continues its talent of finding distinctive and expressive voices in the world of more traditional acting. Jason Lee as syndrome hints at his performance in "Dogma" and Craig T. Nelson shows us he can be so much more than just the coach from Coach. Holly Hunter shows her never ending flexibility (no pun intended), and newcomer Sarah Vowell as Violet (from National Public Radio's "This American Life") is quite delightful. And the only complaint about Samuell L. Jackson is that there isn't enough of him.
One sad difference between "The Incredibles" and Pixar's previous offerings is that it has a few minor niggles. Regardless of how you feel about Pixar's previous work, it was all carefully and consummately made. The movie's mixture of family interactions and superheros almost always works, but is slightly shakey with its villain Syndrome. He's got great lines, a good backstory, and a perfectly over the top performance from Jason Lee, but something just doesn't quite work, and that's the first time I've ever said that about a Pixar flick. But in the end it doesn't matter. So much works here, that the little stuff gets washed away.