Nov. 5, 2004 — -- Now in theaters: "The Incredibles" and "Alfie."
They could've called this "The Amazings," "The Terrifics" or "The Unbelievables" and they still wouldn't have been guilty of exaggeration. What a good movie! What a great look!
One more time, computer animation raises the bar for an animated feature film. But what's best here is the story -- and the jokes. This is the tale of an old, tired superhero. Can you imagine Superman with a paunch of steel? It wasn't supposed to be like this for Mr. Incredible.
There was a time when superheroes fought crime on their own terms. Mr. Incredible could smash through a window to chase a bad guy. A guy complains of the broken glass and our hero quips, "I'm sure with counseling, you'll get over it."
Wrong! Now, with counseling, the public sues. Caped crime-fighters are forced to go into hiding, living under assumed identities in the Federal Superhero Protection Program.
Mr. Incredible is reduced to just another overweight suburban dad who works a boring desk job at an insurance company. The superpowers are still there. He just can't use them or let anyone know he has them.
The animation, a mix of '60s TV and computer-age magic, is a perfect fit for the characters and the comedy, with great gags laughs like vintage Looney Tunes, and that's the highest compliment.
Dinner at the Incredibles' house is like "Superfather Knows Best," satirizing sitcoms and superheroes. The parents and kids squabble, only these are domestic spats with flashes of X-ray vision, blinding speed and invisibility. The kids fight back, as kids will, with their own budding super powers, and don't forget Mom, who was once known as Elastigirl.
In the nick of time, someone calls Mr. Incredible out of retirement, and a chance to escape his boring life. But it's a trap, of course, set by a villain who seeks nothing less than to rule the world.
"The Incredibles" is rated PG. Very young children may be frightened by the chase scenes. But we older children will love every minute of it, especially those minutes that explain the tagline for a film about the comeback of an middle-aged, overweight superhero who can hardly squeeze into his tights: No gut, no glory. A super-duper holiday film. Grade: A-.
Jude Law is Alfie in a remake of the 1966 classic. They've moved the location from London to New York, but the character's pretty much the same and so is the story.
Like in the original, Alfie speaks directly to the camera, a technique that made Michael Caine's performance unforgettable, and Law is awfully good. But you can't just remake a movie. You have to update the movie. What's it all about, Alfie? 1966? The world has changed but you haven't.
We're faced with an allegedly super-hip ladies' man, circa 2004, who doesn't know anything about birth control, AIDS or Viagra. It's not a bad movie, it's the wrong movie.
Law is fine and Susan Sarandon, as the woman who will dump him for a younger man, is even better. But "Alfie" needs an update.
How about bringing "Alfie" to 21st-century New York? Make it edgy, make it real. Make Alfie a woman. There's an idea. Call it "Sex and the City" and it'll run on HBO for five years. Grade: C+.