Pixar somehow continues to make animated movies that are smarter, funnier and even occasionally more emotional than many of the live-action pictures released these days. "The Incredibles" is the latest triumph from the production company and a welcome return for Brad Bird, the director of the still-underrated "Iron Giant".
The picture opens with Mr. Incredible (voiced by Craig T. Nelson) saving the city again, even though he was nearly accidentally stopped by an overzealous fan. He and his wife, Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), make a dynamic duo and are always there to help even in the midst of their every-day lives. However, things change soon after: the superheroes start to face lawsuits (someone was saved when they were about to jump) and government scrutiny (as for lawsuits for good deeds, it's interesting to see this after the famed case recently where two girls were sued for scaring a woman when the girls were going around at night, dropping off cookies they baked.) The government starts into process the "Superhero Relocation Program", shuttling off the super to the suburbs and 9-to-5 jobs.
Mr. Incredible (now named Bob Parr) finds himself working an insurance job, and helps people, despite the warnings of his boss (voiced by Wallace Shawn). Desperate to get back into the superhero game, he and pal Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) occasionally ride around, listening to police calls and providing assistance. When a woman arrives that knows his past and wants to offer him a job as a hero again, he takes it. For a while, things go well - Bob/Mr. Incredible feels better, looks better and has more cash. Unfortunately, the one behind it all is someone from Mr. Incredible's past, with an evil scheme. When Mr. Incredible is captured, it's up to Elastigirl, speedy son Dash and daughter Violet, who can turn invisible and provide a force field. Son Jack-Jack might also lend a hand.
The film, while not offering as many emotional moments (the film is essentially an action movie) as Pixar's prior effort, "Finding Nemo", still contains a lot of heart. The portrayal of the family unit is superb and yet, rather realistic. The kids aren't entirely new characters (the shy girl), but the way that the writers and animators have tweaked all the characters make them feel fresh. The film also provides some nice, respectful and clever goofs on the superhero genre, while providing a solid tale of individuality and family. "The Incredibles" also represents another beautiful picture from Pixar, as the animation is gorgeous. Once again, Pixar also knows how to choreograph a dazzling sequence incredibly well, such as one moment where Elastigirl gets caught in a series of doors and still has to fight off her attackers.
The voice work is fantastic, as Craig T. Nelson's voice work capably handles the humor, confidence and emotion of the role. Holly Hunter's portrayal of a superwoman trying to hold her household together is also first-rate. Sarah Vowell and Spencer Fox are also great voicing the kids. Jason Lee ("Mallrats") is also quite good voicing the villian. One of the film's real gems, however, is director Brad Bird's vocal work as Edna E. Mode, the fashion designer who works on the supersuits worn by the heroes.
If "The Incredibles" is flawed in any way, it's that it's a few minutes too long. At nearly two hours, editing down the picture by 5-10 minutes might have helped pick up the pacing. The film's ending also keeps going on a bit long. Not that this is a fault, but the film is also more violent than other recent animated fare (simply because this is an action movie), and some young children might find it scary.
Overall, while "The Incredibles" doesn't feel like it has quite the depth of "Nemo"'s memorable adventure, this is still another exceptional effort from Pixar, and one of 2004's best films.
VIDEO: "The Incredibles" is presented by Disney in 2.39:1 anamorphic widescreen (there is also a pan & scan version available.) The presentation is THX-Certified. The picture quality is generally excellent, and this is a direct-from-digital transfer. Sharpness and detail are first-rate, as the animation looked crisp and well-defined throughout, with no inconsistencies.
The picture was free of any print flaws, given its digital source. Edge enhancement and pixelation were also absent from the proceedings. Essentially, I didn't see anything whatsoever to complain about here. Colors looked bright, warm and well-saturated, with no smearing or other faults. Black level remained solid, as well.
SOUND: "The Incredibles" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1-EX for this release. The film's sound editing won an Oscar the night before this review was written, and the film's sound designer, Randy Thom, has a history of award-worthy work ("Polar Express", "Cast Away".) The entire film does not provide an aggressive sound mix, but the action scenes present a remarkably enveloping and immersive experience. Surrounds kick into high gear during these scenes - such as when the bad guys come after the Incredibles on hover discs. For those who can enable a rear back surround, it also gets some nice use on occasion. Audio quality was excellent, with well-recorded effects and dialogue, crisp music and some nice, deep hits of bass on occasion. Dolby Digital 5.1-EX presentations are also included in French and Spanish.
EXTRAS: Director/Writer Brad Bird and Producer Jon Walker offer one audio commentary, while members of the animation staff provide audio commentary on the second track. The writer/director and producer offer an energetic and fun discussion about the picture. We hear about story issues and story changes (as we learn early in the track, originally everyone could fly except for Bob), what the filmmakers were going for in terms of tone and style, technical issues and obstacles. The animators track is more technical, but they still manage provide a fun, enjoyable chat about the day-to-day process of their work. Finally, the first disc includes an intro from director Brad Bird and "sneak peek" trailers.
The second disc of the set starts off with an intro from director Brad Bird and the new animated short, "Jack-Jack Attack". After that, we get a series of deleted scenes, which offer some pretty interesting material - including an alternate opening. There are no "finished" scenes here, as we see story reel footage (animated storyboards, in other words) and discussion from the filmmakers, who talk about the history of the scene and why it was deleted/altered.
The "Behind the Scenes" material starts off with a 27-minute documentary feature. The picture starts off with some interviews from the crew and behind-the-scenes footage. We then see footage of director Brad Bird, who looks like he could be part of a Mountain Dew commerical - the guy is pretty intense. The documentary is fun and informative, though: we see a lot of the meetings and decisions that were made along the way.
"More Making of 'The Incredibles'" is an additional documentary that lasts a little over 40 minutes. This piece also touches on a lot of different aspects of the production, such as story, music, set design, sound, character design and more. one of the more interesting pieces is the sound portion, as Randy Thom discusses the different sound effects that had to be created for the film, and we see the foley performers at work creating sound.
"Incredi-Blunders" offers a look at some animation screw-ups, while "Vowellet" is an essay by Sarah Vowell, who discusses her life (she's not an actor otherwise) and talks about her work on the movie. Rounding out the "behind-the-scenes" section are trailers for the film an an art gallery and character interviews.
The "Top Secret" area offers a clip from the goofy, awful parody "cartoon", "Mr. Incredible and Pals", with optional commentary from Mr. Incredible and Frozone (w/Nelson and Jackson doing the commentary). The section also offers a series of superhero bios.
Finally, we get "Boundin'", the short that played in front of "The Incredibles" theatrically (with optional commentary) and the brief featurette, "Who is Bud Luckey?". The bonus material on the second disc has optional English, French and Spanish subtitles.
Final Thoughts: Once again, Pixar has come up with an intelligent, highly entertaining feature that both adults and children (although this time, older children are probably the target audience) can enjoy. The DVD offers outstanding image quality, excellent audio and a ton of supplements. Highly recommended.