Sunday, 20 December 2009

Disaster Year 2004: The Incredibles

Bob Parr is a former superhero slumming it in the suburbs thanks to an ungrateful public. Every day he squeezes himself into a satirically small vehicle and commutes to and from an awful cubicle farm. His evenings are spent gazing into the middle distance, ignoring his family, and dreaming of the past. His only remaining connection to a hero identity is the odd night spent listening to a Police scanner with a former super-colleague.

Parr yearns for his past life, although not as an alternative to his new role as a provider. He loves his family, and delights in his children's fledgling abilities. His wife Helen, formerly Elastigirl, has adapted well to normal life, causing Parr to further subsume and conceal his discomfort. Rather than a middle-aged virility tantrum, Parr's longing is more about the knowledge that he has a very special gift but is unable to use it. In his current position he is completely unable to help people. It torments him.

The first act of The Incredibles is suffused with an almost overpowering sense of sadness. The denial is destroying Parr. His hair is lank, his eyes pitted, and gut hanging. In the absence of heroics, Parr has taken a position at an insurance company, a body ostensibly tasked with comfort. Instead it is ruled by a vicious grey lump who worries about his shareholders' margins, and slanders Parr for his instinct to help.

Salvation eventually arrives not in escape, but sharing his dreams and aspirations with his family. They become a unit, each member's skill-set complimenting the other. The Incredibles is the most emotionally sincere examination of costumed adventuring in a functional human context. Writer / Director Brad Bird is able to compliment the usual Pixar wonder with a craft honed after years of service on heyday The Simpsons. The Parrs are much more than zippy cartoon facsimiles, like their Springfield set antecedents, they're a rounded, believable group of people.

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