A seamless blend of action adventure, incisive satire and family drama, writer/director Brad Bird's The Incredibles justifiably won a pair of Academy Awards this year, including Best Animated Feature. Offering the most mature Pixar film to date, The Incredibles tackles a number of subjects - aging, mortality, the ramifications of violence - not normally found in most kiddie-themed entertainment. Centered on Bob Parr (voice of Craig T. Nelson), the secret identity of one Mr. Incredible, the film follows the halcyon days of superhero-dom when everything from saving a kitten to averting a suicide were all just part of the job.
Things go sour and the government-sponsored heroes are forced into hiding in suburbia - Bob marries Elastigirl (aka Helen, voiced by Holly Hunter) and raises three kids, Dash (voiced by Spencer Fox), Violet (voiced by Sarah Vowell) and baby Jack-Jack (voiced by Maeve Andrews and Eli Fucile). Left with only the occasional night spent listening to the police scanner with his best friend, Frozone (aka Lucius Best, voiced by Samuel L. Jackson) and intervening before authorities arrive, Bob yearns for his glory years. It's when the ominous villain Syndrome (voiced by Jason Lee) enters his life that Bob is left with little choice but to once again don the uniform of a superhero.
Healthy dollops of James Bond, the Indiana Jones trilogy, Shakespearean pathos and vintage superhero cartoons are evident throughout The Incredibles - writer/director Bird is clearly passionate about the inner workings of superheroes as well as taking the opportunity to deflate a little of the mythos by injecting humorous, "reality"-based asides. Another unexpected vein of storytelling utilized by Bird is that of a post-9/11 flavor; in particular, Helen's line late in the film ("Remember the bad guys? On those shows you used to watch on Saturday mornings? Well, these guys aren't like those guys. They won't exercise restraint just because you're children. They will kill you if they get the chance. Do not give them that chance.") stands out as an example of the understandable paranoia parents feel towards their children in the uncertainty of global turmoil.
Nevertheless, Bird keeps things light, fun and fresh as The Incredibles rockets along, easily making two hours disappear in the blink of an eye. A film that rewards endless repeats, this is an example of brilliant storytelling molded with cutting-edge technology - The Incredibles is indeed that - absolutely incredible.
The Incredibles is presented in a flawless 2.39:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The direct digital port looks razor-sharp and utterly perfect - if there are any flaws or defects in the picture, I certainly couldn't pick them out. This is easily a reference quality image that pops off the screen; vibrant colors and frenetic action sequences can't faze it. An amazing, jaw-dropping picture that has Pixar setting the bar (yet again) at a seemingly insurmountable height. Beautiful stuff.
Dolby Digital 5.1 EX is offered in English, French and Spanish. Much like the visual presentation, it's flawless and full of pep. The surrounds get a workout during the action sequences, but don't count them out during the more domestic moments - this is an active, engaging soundfield that puts all speakers to use. A very immersive experience that dovetails nicely with the exquisite image. Reference quality.
It's a good thing the movie's titled The Incredibles, since that's precisely the number of extras - incredible - available on this two-disc set. The first disc features a minute long introduction from writer/director Bird, explaining the direct digital transfer process and also how to set your monitor for optimum viewing pleasure. Bird re-appears on one of two commentary tracks; the first track features Bird and producer John Walker while the second track features a handful of Pixar animators discussing their work. Also included on the first disc are eight minutes and 47 seconds worth of trailers: Cars, Chicken Little, Cinderella: Special Edition, the three recently released Miyazaki films, Lilo & Stitch 2, The Incredibles video game and "The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror." All of the trailers are presented in anamorphic widescreen and those that are 1.33 are window-boxed.
The second disc bears the bulk of the bonus features - one of the highlights is the four minute, 40 second short film "Jack-Jack Attack," which helps explain what Kari the babysitter (voiced by Bret Parker) suffered through as Jack-Jack discovered his powers; it's presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen with English Dolby Digital 5.1 and English subtitles. Thirty four minutes of deleted scenes are offered, including an alternate opening sequence. A one minute, 50 second intro with Brad Bird and Mark Andrews explains some of the reasoning behind cutting or altering scenes; each scene also includes a brief introduction. One minute, 42 seconds of "Incredi-Blunders" is amusing, along the lines of the outtakes from previous Pixar films; "The Making of 'The Incredibles" (which runs for 27 minutes, 24 seconds) as well as "More Making of 'The Incredibles'" (running for 40 minutes, 53 seconds) covers everything from storytelling to character design - literally anything and everything you could want to know.
Also on the second disc is a handful of "Top Secret Files of The Supers," which details some of the characters only glimpsed during the film, as well as the film's main characters. "Mr. Incredible and Pals," a four-minute cartoon "unearthed" from what looks like the Sixties (it features what the press materials describe as "retro-style lip-o-vision") and featuring Frozone and a mute rabbit named Mr. Skipperdoo is lame by itself, but watch it with the optional commentary featuring Mr. Incredible and Frozone and it becomes something else entirely. Bizarre but a cool extra, nonetheless. Six minutes and 30 seconds of character interviews are on hand as the major stars of The Incredibles discuss their experiences making the film. "Vowellet," an essay by Sarah Vowell, who voices Violet Parr, is a nine-minute look at Vowell's perception of becoming an animated superhero; Vowell, an author and NPR contributor, brings a unique perspective to the proceedings. The short (four-minute, 40 second) film Boundin', written and directed by Bud Luckey (voice of agent Rick Dicker in The Incredibles) and which preceded the feature in theaters, is also on hand here in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1, as is the four-minute featurette, "Who Is Bud Luckey?" Lastly, 13 minutes worth of teasers and trailers are included as is a THX Optimizer.
The quality of the audio/video transfer, coupled with the copious extras, make this two-disc set a cinch for DVD Talk Collectors Series status. Writer/director Bird knocks it out of the park, creating a fun family film with extra layers for the older kids and adults. The Incredibles is an award-winning, adrenaline-pumping flick that is sure to become a certifiable classic in the years to come.