Bob and Helen Parr (Craig T. Nelson and Holly Hunter) have recently moved into their new suburban home with their three children, Violet (Sarah Vowell), Dash (Spencer Fox) and baby Jack Jack. Bob spends his day behind a desk at an insurance company and Helen stays at home. Attempting to blend in in the suburbs is difficult for them, but especially difficult for Bob. He used to be Mr. Incredible, before a series of lawsuits forced all of the Supers into retirement. Helen has acclimated more easily, but finds it difficult to keep a lid on their children’s burgeoning super powers. Jack and his friend, Lucius (Samuel L. Jackson) go out for a boy’s night, which for Bob includes listening to police scanners and trying to find clandestine ways to use his superpowers. After rescuing folks from a burning building, Bob returns home. But the fire has been ignited again. He soon receives a mysterious offer and jumps at the chance to use his powers again. Learning that many of the other Supers in retirement have disappeared, Mr. Incredible comes face to face with Syndrome (Jason Lee), the new villain in town.
“The Incredibles” is easily one of the most appropriately named films to be made in a long time. It is simply that. The newest film from Pixar combines human characters with the same attention to detail that has made all of their previous films so memorable.
Written and directed by Brad Bird, the director of “The Iron Giant”, a thoroughly underrated traditionally animated film released some years ago by Warner Bros., has found the perfect home for his talents, “The Incredibles” represents the perfect marriage of director and studio. Bird has been working on this project for a number of years, even before he started working with Pixar. At Pixar, they were able to help him realize his vision through computer animation. My friend Shannon described the film to someone as a “great action film that’s animated”. I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Shortly after the theatrical release, there was an article about the film and Bird in ‘Los Angeles’ Magazine. It described how obsessed Bird became with every detail. This was his baby and he wasn’t going to take any shortcuts. It clearly shows in every frame of the film.
The film deftly blends comedy, edge of your seat suspense, great visuals, bright, colorful animation and great voice acting.
The scenes of the Parr family living in suburbia are truly funny. To watch Bob, a huge hulking guy with a broad torso (think Superman, crammed into a small mini car, drive into his driveway and sullenly walk inside his home perfectly captures how many people feel about their lives. Violet and Dash are portrayed in a very realistic way. Violet is the older child, in Junior High, shy and afraid to talk to the boy she likes. Dash is the younger, more outgoing, precocious kid. They behave like a normal brother and sister would. They fight all the time. But if they have to help each other, they do and this shows that they really care about one another. Helen is gamely making a go of it in suburbia, because she is afraid of the consequences if her family’s true identity is revealed.
If you took all of the scenes of the family in suburbia and made a film simply of those, the result would be a great stand alone addition to any comedy library.
After the family gets drawn into the action plot, things really kick into gear. Deftly combining elements of filmed superhero movies, James Bond adventures and action films, “The Incredibles” creates an amazing backdrop to tell an involving, exciting story.
Many of the action sequences are set in buildings and landscapes clearly inspired by the James Bond films of the 60s. As Jack and Helen make their way through Syndrome’s headquarters, a structure inspired by “Dr. No” or “You Only Live Twice”, the filmmakers also play music inspired by 007 films. This provides a nice, unique and fun visual reference for the adults, to keep their attention.
The action scenes are visually stunning, especially a scene referred to as the “100 Yard Dash”. In it, Dash runs back and forth throughout the forest, trying to stay ahead of Syndrome’s army of goons who are chasing him in small flying saucers. The camera moves at dizzying speeds, back and forth, up and down. It would have been extremely difficult to do this with live action.
The film also takes an irreverent tone towards super hero films; much like “Scream” made fun of horror films. A scene in which Jack and Helen visit Edna, the costume designer to the Supers, evokes similar scenes between James Bond and Q. Edna is a hilarious character, inspired by famed costume designer Edith Head, and voiced by director Brad Bird. All of the clichés of superhero films make appearances. For instance, Mr. Incredible tosses out a one-liner when he dispatches a villain, creating a pun about his name, much like James Bond does. Jack and Lucius talk about ‘monologueing’, a trait they came across many times as Supers. After capturing them, the villain would begin a monologue about his greatness, in the process giving them time to escape.
All of the voice actors are spot on. Craig T. Nelson (TV’s “Coach”) does a great job of capturing the boredom of everyman working a humdrum life and the unabashed excitement at doing something he is truly excited about. Holly Hunter is great as Helen and Elastigirl. Her lilting Southern drawl provides her character with an innocence that masks her toughness. The two child actors capture the moods and attitudes of children growing up. Violet has a voice that is low and bored, but will probably change any minute. Dash is always excited or extremely bored. Jason Lee is also great as the crazed Buddy and Syndrome, the villain, perfectly capturing the glee of the more over the top villains from other films. Samuel L. Jackson’s role as Lucius and Frozone is also very effective. He is a bit more like Helen, than Jack, trying to acclimate to civilian life, but when the opportunity presents itself, he immediately throws himself into the role of Super.
The animation in any Pixar film is top notch, and “The Incredibles” is no exception. What you might not notice is that with each new film, the animation becomes even more advanced and realistic. As mentioned before, this is the first Pixar film with an all ‘human’ cast’. The attention to detail on each of the characters is amazing. Especially the hair. In previous digital animation, the hair has provided problems. For instance, in the first “Toy Story”, there is a little puppy. He looks good, but he looks animated. In the second, this puppy looks 100 times better, because the software for animating the hair was that much more evolved. In “The Incredibles”, each of the humans appears to have real hair, especially Syndrome, whose shock of hair resembles a large flame. There are many details which still appear ‘cartoonish’, but these are intentional, for the sake of laughter; for instance, Bob’s small car. I have no doubt that Pixar could animate a film that looked almost photorealistic.
Bird is clearly in tune with superheroes. His previous film “The Iron Giant” is a very effective, sweet-natured homage to the sci-fi films of the 50s. Using traditional animation, he evokes a story of a lonely boy who stumbles across an Iron Giant. They become friends, but there are problems when the townsfolk realize that a giant robot from outer space is living in the vicinity.
The DVD for “The Incredibles” is simply beautiful. The widescreen version of the film is clear, bright and colorful. Of course, since the film was created in computers, the transfer is naturally going to be more brilliant than a traditional film transfer.
The second disc in the set contains a Making of Documentary, complete files on all of the Supers, an ‘early’ animated effort featuring Mr. Incredible and Frozone, deleted scenes, and a ‘new’ cartoon called “Jack Jack Attack”.
In the film, there is a moment in which Helen calls home to check on the babysitter watching Jack Jack, the baby. The babysitter has left a series of frantic messages. It is a funny scene. “Jack Jack Attack” is a short cartoon depicting the events leading up to the phone messages, before the family returns home. I am pretty sure that this cartoon was created from footage cut out of the original film. Perhaps they felt it was running too long. It is fun to watch the footage, but when a character, from the film, makes an appearance at the end of the short, it sort of gives away the real origin of this footage. As a stand alone cartoon, there is no reason for this character to appear. As I said, its fun to watch, but it really should have been included in the Deleted Scenes area, and not billed as a new creation. It’s a great idea to create new shorts featuring these characters, as Disney did with Roger Rabbit.
The Deleted Scenes are interesting and include an alternate opening that is more than a little odd. Thankfully, they didn’t use it or any of the other deleted scenes. These scenes are presented as animatics, a sort of rough draft of the film, that animators use to make sure everything is working well, before doing all of the final (most time consuming and expensive phase) animation.
The ‘early’ animated short, with commentary by Mr. Incredible and Frozone, is interesting, but odd. I really think this was created recently, as part of the filmmaking process. Not as some sort of early project by Brad Bird. I could be wrong.
The complete files of the Supers (which Mr. Incredible quickly scrolls through in a scene in the film) are interesting to read through. There are also audio files from each of the Supers, in their voices, talking about their lives.
“The Incredibles” is yet another top-notch addition to the Pixar library and yet another top-notch DVD that belongs in every collection.