Books for Everyone!

March 2018

The Incredibles

There is so much stuff packed into the 2004 film, The Incredibles, it’s incredible! Incroyable!

This computer-animated flick produced by Pixar Animation Studios was the brainchild of Brad Bird. He claims credit as the first director, working outside of the maze of animation known in the U.S. as Pixar, to direct a Pixar film. Bird thought of this film, developed it, wrote it, directed it, and is the voice of Edna, my favorite character in the film. You might say Mr. Bird even vocally-stars in his own movie, on his own sound-stage.

There is always a serious undertone to any Pixar film, social commentary that comments in ways that Walt Disney Pictures, the parent company, would rather not have Child Pixar comment. This rebellious stance toward Big Daddy Walt (and The Mouse) is one reason why I prefer most of the Pixar films of this era. Since the past decade or so, however, the Pixar productions have been re-productions of previous films and variations on the same ideas, thereby leading to an overall watering down of the franchise.

The effect is akin to the result from repeatedly peeling away the Silly Putty from the comic strip: The sharp image looks great the first time. The creation is a novelty unto itself!

Five or six times later, the picture isn’t what it used to be! It keeps getting fainter and fainter, faded, distorted, and even dirty because even the Silly Putty can’t withstand the repetition. An original is an original. Period. Sequels and facsimiles might make money, but, make no bones about it, they are nearly always disappointments to the audiences who come for novelty, not for the same proven formula re-packaged.

The pure novelty of The Incredibles comes from the unabashedly honest-to-goodness, make-no-bones-about-it plot: The Superheroes are under attack by the American society in which they super-hero. It’s dastardly, and the lawyers are the usual culprits behind the destruction of “normalcy.”

Some of the best lines in this film are tried-and-true truisms about the plight of modern America under siege by political correctness, the cold fishes of bureaucracy, moral relativism, the hyper-hyped asinine adoration of mediocrity, the dumbing down of excellence, the dumbing down of education, the dumbing down of dumbing down, and the type of exaltation and celebration of the banal that drove Anton Chekhov bonkers or чокнутый !

The Anti-Superhero is so aptly named Syndrome that it’s symbolically and literally hilarious from the jump. An American cannot merely have a sickness nowadays. He must suffer from a syndrome. Witness, for example, my adopted Snowshoe cat, Gabrielle. The pathetic, pretty creature was abandoned by her “owner” in 2008 during the subprime housing collapse. This now-queenly feline quite obviously has Abandoned Cat Syndrome whenever her food bowl becomes nearly-empty. Her look tells me — “It’s a tragedy!”

I tell her to fear not: She’s so flexible! Her nick-name is Elasti-cat.

Mr. and Mrs. Incredible and their three super-tykes are extremely likable and realistic. In fact, I’ve known people just like them. I’ve also known the prototype of Frozone, and his wife, Honey, as well as the snarly, nasty schoolteacher and the beleaguered Government Relocation Agent who, to me, looks an awful lot like the late actor Abe Vigoda of television fame. I’ve even experienced that Baby-Sitter. Once.

The soundtrack of this film is loud. There is no other word for it. It’s super-loud, and incredibly ambitious in the way that it marries sound and action. I must admit there are times when the Mute Button is super-activated. I also find the volume range between the musical score (BLASTING) and the dialogue (hushed) to be huge.

The film was meant to be a theatre-event, nonetheless, and since I avoid movie theaters like the plague-syndrome, I fully understand the reason for the diva decibels of the musical action score. I just happen to think The Incredibles suffers from Surround-Sound-itis, which is not a syndrome!

The existence of The Everyman for the creation of animated characters was unknown to me before I watched the “Making-of- Documentary.” I now can identify the cartoon-archetype in just about every Pixar film that I watch because the template has become quite worn, much like a sewing pattern used so repeatedly that you can see the pin holes in the paper. The same creative fatigue factor happened to the truly classic Walt Disney films, perhaps by true design, but the end result is a lessening of the impact visually.

It is incredibly difficult for any graphic artist to continue to use the same model over and over and over again, like plastic parsley being recycled. Hence, Pixar has gone flat during the past decade. Even this innovative money-maker has resorted to imitations of itself.

I have no advice or recommendation to the Pixar picture people for the revival of its own once highly-original entertainment. The imagination-well can run dry for every artist. The re-hashing of old themes, however, or glomming onto the latest headline, is not conducive to the creation of film art. And Pixar did create cinematic art, of a type that was uniquely American, starting with the technology, and then working with strictly American thematic material. It would be a shame for Pixar to end their illustrious and lustrous run with the mediocrity that it once so brilliantly mocked.

The Super-Hero road has become so well-worn that maybe even Syndrome is diabolically laughing, from his ether-sphere in Hell. There has to be, somewhere, an Unknown Somebody, a Nobody, waiting to be discovered doing something distinctively daring, something superbly heroic, something gosh-darn unexpected, with some quietly bold deed that changes the world of ennui, boredom and banality, that world that Anton Chekhov knew so profoundly well that he stated:

Any idiot can face a crisis. It’s this day-to-day living that wears you out.