This is the first Pixar movie that doesn’t explore an insanely cute, anthropomorphized, secret and parallel society — no hidden social structures of toys, ants, monsters or fish are revealed in “The Incredibles.” This is a good thing, because frankly I’m getting bored of that premise, which is becoming a hackneyed Pixar trick. This also explains why I was unimpressed by the trailer for their next release, “Cars.”
It’s a Bird!
That break from formula is due, in no small part, to Brad Bird’s participation as writer and director. I read that Pixar actively courted Bird because he would bring a fresh perspective to their filmmaking, and I have to applaud them for that, at least. “The Incredibles” doesn’t quite live up to his previous movie, the unexpectedly poignant and shockingly human “The Iron Giant,” but it shows that his talents are not fleeting.
By far, this is the best acting I’ve ever seen in a computer animated film. There’s the fine vocal performances, of which I will write more about in a moment, but there’s also a new kind of attention being paid here to the small nuances of human movement. In a way, the animators are relying less on their vocal performers than ever, instead investing more effort in defining characters by the way their bodies behave.
The End of Stunt Casting
For years, I’ve detested the practice of ‘stunt casting’ for animated movies, in which studios recruit long lists of famous live action actors to voice their characters, whether hand-drawn or computer animated. To me, it’s such a distraction to be nagged by the casting director’s insistent game of “Guess who’s voice that is?” while I’m watching tea sets dancing — as if that weren’t awful enough. “The Incredibles” is guilty of this conceit too, but perhaps less seriously than others, because the voices that were cast here seem to have been chosen for their genuine suitability to the characters. I’m certainly no huge fan of Craig T. Nelson, but his performance as Mr. Incredible possesses a pleasing, reassuring kind of anonymity that respects the film. I was similarly happy not to have been able to recognize the voices of several other characters until the end credits rolled.
Night of the Hunter
Notwithstanding what I just wrote, I think Holly Hunter turns in such a pitch-perfect performance as Elastigirl that it’s easy to forgive the fact that her voice is unmistakable from the first syllable. Her character is the heart of the film, and she bears the burden with an magnificence uncommon for any role. If ever they should give an award for a performance in an animated kids’ movie, this is the one that deserves it.