Super family mixes heroics and comedy in Pixar film

Who can save the world from peril? Super Baby? Samuel L. Jackson? I’m guessing “Coach” Craig T. Nelson wasn’t high on your guessing list as hero to humanity, but in the latest brilliant stroke by Pixar, “Mr. Incredible,” the man with the monotone, is our only hope.

In a world where super-humans have been forced to hide undercover due to legal issues, a former man of might is drawn into a conspiracy by a mysterious benefactor. It’s up to his super-wife and kids to save him and the world and be back in time for dinner!

Confession: I’m a comic book geek. With a radio nickname like SuperScott, that should be apparent. So when I heard Pixar would be animating a superhero movie, it’s needless to say that I was excited. Was I disappointed with what I saw? Yes – I was disappointed a movie like this took so long to come out! This is what a superhero movie should be like.

I really hope Craig T. Nelsons’ career gets a boost from his stint as the patriarch of the Fantastic Family. It’s funny how he can drop his voice to a low growl and sound like a totally different character. His Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible is the opposite of what we’re used to seeing in superhero movies. “Spider-Man,” “X-Men” – where is the witty banter?

Here, Mr. Incredible not only cracks jokes and acts dashing, but he also is a vulnerable character – he just wants to help, even if the world doesn’t. Pay close attention to the scene where he is captured and receives some terrible news about his family – the voice, acting and animation combine for a heartbreaking and emotional moment that is rare for an animated movie and for superheroes.

The cast, in general, turns in strong performances. Sam “Baddest Man in the World” Jackson is barely in the movie for 20 minutes, but he makes any movie better. Does anyone think his Frozone looks like Dave Chapelle animated? Maybe it’s just me.

I’m a huge fan of Holly Hunter and her Elastigirl/Helen doesn’t just look like her – you can practically see Hunter’s mannerisms on the screen. We are inadvertently supposed to not like Helen, since she tries to hide her kids’ gifts, but when push comes to shove, she is a fierce protector of her children and the field general of the family.

Jason Lee deserves a better fate than a B-list actor and with each solid showing, I hope he gets that much closer to stardom. The Kevin Smith film-alum may have brought to life a villain as dynamic as this year’s other big baddie, Doc Ock from “Spider-Man 2.”

Lee’s “Syndrome” (honestly, would you believe in a superhero with a malevolent moniker like that?) is not only of the James Bond-ian breed of ubervillain, but he also is every well-adjusted geek’s worst nightmare – an over-obsessed fan-boy gone terribly wrong.

With new takes on “Superman” and “Batman” in the works, try not to laugh at the history of superhero fashion development with Edna Mode (“Incredibles” writer/director Brad Bird). You’ll think twice about the cape-craze after this movie. Bird’s performance steals this show hands down, and the packed house I saw this film with agreed.

Why did this film work? Because animation allows the writers to develop a story that directors Sam Raimi (Spider-Man) and Bryan Singer (X-Men) can’t afford to attempt – a world where characters can run at super-speed or stretch into forms at which even a Yoga master would blanch.

Even with computer technology at the point it is at, audiences would never buy a live action variation of Elastigirl, er, Elastimom turning into a giant parachute. The joy of animation is that it can afford to look somewhat comical – the imagination takes leaps of logic.

What does this mean for the dialogue? It means that I can finally say a movie has brought attention to the obvious – that villains use monologues to the point where even Hamlet would say “shut up!” Cue the witty superhero banter at last! Even superpowers like superspeed and invisibility are tackled with new angles (have you ever felt invisible around another?).

This is not your typical animated film. With a PG rating, Bird pushes the envelope with the story content. In this world, people die, people are tortured … there is even a social commentary about how people would sue superheroes for saving their lives despite risking their own.

I thoroughly enjoyed this James Bond-meets-Superman-meets-Playstation 2 concoction.