This year’s NoMa Summer Screen 2011, a festival of outdoor movies that all have something to do with trains, is finally closing out its screenings this year with the festival’s last entry, The Incredibles (2004). It plays on August 3. The films in the festival didn’t have much to do with trains. The idea of a theme seemed like more of an excuse to see a good movie outdoors than anything else. Come to think of it, the only scene involving a train from The Incredibles doesn’t last even five minutes. Who cares? It’s Pixar!
Pixar Animation Studios has some of the best content of any major studio (excluding the ho-hum Cars franchise). Disney should owe its life to the studio, which revived its image and finally gave new characters and rides to put in its theme parks. Without the theme parks, Disney has little to go on, and new films with new characters are required to build an attraction around at Disney. They have gotten a lot of luck from garbage films recently (see The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, TRON: Legacy) but struggled for about three good decades after the 1960s to make films that hit their mark, particularly with animation.
In the 1990s, Disney hit it big with a string of great, animated films, starting with The Little Mermaid (1989) and Beauty and the Beast (1991). Just as soon as they saw a rebirth, Pixar’s Toy Story (1995) was released and changed the game. Disney gobbled Pixar up about 10 years later. But somehow, the Pixar magic stays in tact…usually (see Cars movies).
The Incredibles is one of Pixar’s best films along with Finding Nemo (2003), WALL-E (2008) and Up (2009). They transcend their genres of comedy, family film and animation to simply be truly great films. The film involves a family with superpowers that, during the era when the parents were young, used to be crime fighters. But superheroes grew out of favor with the public, and have now been forced to live normal lives with the rest of us. The father, who used to be known as Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson), now works at a dead end job cutting people out of their compensation money at an insurance company. His wife, formerly a women’s libber named Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), is now a stay-at-home mother of three.
Behind his wife’s back, Mr. Incredible has been reliving the good old days by secretly resuming superhero work with his old fried Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson). A secret research facility sees this and contacts him for work. He goes along with this even though he’s not quite sure what kind of company he’s working for. Pretty soon, his wife (and children) have to rescue Mr. Incredible from his mysterious employer.
The film opens with the parents when they were young, and even adds newsreel-style footage of how “The Supers” fell from grace. We see Mr. Icredible in old interviews, rescues and see he has admirers and imitators. When the villain of the film reveals himself later on, we see that the introduction wasn’t just a clever ploy, but added an extra layer to the film’s ideas. The villain couldn’t be more perfect for the story.
The Incredibles gets the kids and the family dynamic correct, when most live-action films have difficulty managing that. Each member has problems that get solved by the end, but not in a quick fix. The family eventually has to work together to help themselves, and save the world. Out of all the films that got released during the span of the last 20 years, there are only about 100 that you could call modern classics. Pixar has made a few of them.
The Incredibles closes out NoMa Summer Screen on August 3. The film is also available on DVD and Blu-Ray. NoMa’s events take place on L St. in between 2nd and 3rd St. in NE D.C. Screenings begin at 9:00. You can visit NoMa’s website here.