Originally created 03/15/05

Oscar film incredibly better than other 'toons

Sure, The Incredibles won the Oscar a few weeks ago for best animated feature, but consider the competition.

In the category, created for the 2002 awards, this stunning, all-ages-delighting tale of a family of superheroes forced to suppress their powers in an excessively litigious society was up against only two other films: Shrek 2 and Shark Tale. The former was funny and clever, yet wholly superficial, and its first half-hour was relatively wretched. The latter was a more urban, less enchanting gloss on Finding Nemo.

Although its predecessor won the first animated feature award three years ago and both installments made a gazillion dollars, Shrek 2 wasn't any real competition to The Incredibles, which is out on DVD today. Perhaps because it managed to attract Martin Scorsese in a key supporting role - the man, it appears, just can't catch a break at the Academy Awards - Shark Tale wasn't a threat, either.

Although it's great that The Incredibles got an award, it really deserved to compete on a higher level. You know that gloomy, grimy boxing melodrama that won most of the big prizes, including best picture? The Incredibles surpasses it in both quality and durability.

If you haven't yet seen the best family film in years, DVD isn't the worst place to finally do so. Even on a 27-inch flat screen, writer-director Brad Bird's unstoppable concoction doesn't lose its vividness and punch.

The last animated film with characters this well-drawn - fellow Disney/Pixar production Nemo - never went quite this deep. Actresses who despair over the lack of worthwhile female parts in movies should have taken a closer look at the role of Helen Parr: mother, wife, elasticized superhero.

As voiced by flinty Holly Hunter, Helen completely upsets the perception that wife characters are there merely to provide foils to the husbands. Sure, Bob Parr (Craig T. Nelson) is the biggest thing in the movie, with his iceberg-size jaw and hulking physique, but it's Helen whose strength holds both her family and the movie together.

In large part because the intelligent, thoughtful family dynamic overrides even the thrilling action in the movie, The Incredibles truly reaches out to more than just sugar-fueled youngsters and tolerant parents.


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