It's a real shame that most people probably don't know Brad Bird. If they did, they would know about the "Iron Giant," a completely ignored animated movie from 1999 that never got the credit it deserved. Now he's all over the place for "The Incredibles," another ride into the Pixar way of filmmaking.
Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) was in his prime, saving people from certain doom… until the lawsuits hit. One by one, people began suing superheroes for a variety of reasons and the government stepped in to relocate them all, including his family. Now known as Bob Parr and given a day job at an insurance company, his life is miserable, until he receives a secret message that can get him back to his real job. What he discovers is a world take over plot, and he needs his entire family to pull him out.
The first half hour or so of "The Incredibles" is nothing short of brilliant. It maintains that charm, all-ages humor, and rapid fire pacing audiences have come to expect from this animation studio. The simple idea of a super hero being taken out of his or her element is genius and it's a wonder why no one thought of that before.
Then it nosedives. Quickly. The comedy is gone and all we're left with a simple action movie with a few nice homage's to some classic films. It's very generic, simple, and flat out uninteresting. Oh sure, for a kid, this is probably a great movie along with plenty of merchandising opportunity. It completely loses that adult audience that was so fixated on the magic of something like "Toy Story" or "A Bugs Life."
All it really becomes is a generic parody of comic book and movie super heroes. They even touch on another way to handle this one, the husbands sneaking out late at night to perform heroic deeds, only to come home and be yelled at by their wives. That's funny, not to mention hugely entertaining. Where is there need to become some all out action epic? That's really not what was advertised and it puts people into the wrong mindset going in.
Then you have a decent set of characters, including some that are entirely wasted. Frozone is voiced by Samuel L. Jackson and gets plenty of screen time in the early going (a great "Die Hard 3" parody included). Where is he for the rest of the movie? Oh, quietly sitting on the sidelines until the final battle so parents are forced to run out and buy more merchandise since he'll be fresh on kid's minds.
For Brad Bird fans, things here are going to seem awfully familiar. The final segment is another robot-on-the-loose tip-of-the-hat to 1950s sci-fi, just like "The Iron Giant." However, none of the magic that was contained in that film is retained here. Everything thrown on screen is there to look good and impress fans of this style.
Then again, the only thing saving this film from a complete pitfall is the animation. So much has been done and there's so much more power available, that something you wouldn't even think was important (like hair), is just stunning here. The water effects are some of the best you'll ever see come out of computer. However, all of the computing power in the world doesn't make a great movie and that little dash of originality in the opening is nowhere near enough to make up for the rest of it. (** out of *****)
With no film to degrade, there's little that can go wrong with a Pixar DVD transfer. With this oddly ratioed 2.39:1 picture, there is. The bright red suits of the title heroes are just too much for the format to handle. Compression is heavy, even if the rest of the film looks stunning. Bleeding can be prevalent at times, hindering a transfer that is just one notch short of absolute perfection. There's no way around it. If the other Pixar discs didn't exist, this would be the best you could buy. Unfortunately, they do, and "The Incredibles" just doesn't stack up, at least comparatively. (****)
Presented in 5.1 EX, the disc makes up for those minor visual shortcomings with this audio mix. Bass should never be this strong without a little DTS logo somewhere on the packaging. Movement (check out Dash running around the dining room) is captured flawlessly. The use of the surround channels never seems forced or overdone. Dialogue is perfectly blended, even during the most intense action sequences. You can't get much more than this. (*****)
The same goes for the always-exhaustive feature set. Disc one of course contains the film and two commentary tracks. Brad Bird commands the first along with his producer, John Walker. A ton of the animation crew then handles the second. Enthusiasm is infectious during both and they're well worth a listen either way.
Disc two contains the type of feature set that gives a reviewer wrist cramps. Bird starts things off with a basic introduction that overviews everything. "Jack-Jack Attack" is heavily promoted (on both the front and back of the case), a short four-minute look at how hard it is to baby-sit an eye-laser shooting toddler. It offers more laughs than a good hour of the actual film.
There are an insane amount of deleted scenes, totaling over 34 minutes. The longest is an alternate introduction. Everything is done with storyboards and Mark Andrews and Bird introduce each scene.
Behind the scenes is split into a few different sections. The biggest areas here are two separate making-of documentaries. One comes in at 27-minutes, the other running a crazy 40-minutes. One thing that makes something like this interesting compared to another special effects, CGI laden documentary is the footage of the studios. These guys have fun when they need to wind down and it's always entertaining to watch.
"Incredi-Blunders" is a short reel of mistakes made by the animators, not outtakes that were so hilarious in other films. The section is rounded off with trailers, a photo gallery, and "interviews" with the Incredibles. That's a short feature worth watching.
"Top Secret" goes deeper into the mythology of the film. There's a cartoon called "Mr. Incredible" that manages to be a perfect parody of some early super-hero cartoon shows. For maximum laughter, listen to the commentary from both Flozone and Mr. Incredible himself. It's one of the most entertaining features on this disc. The "NSA (National Super Agency) File" is a text feature that gives an overview of all of extra characters in the film.
"Boundin'" is the final section of the disc, a short feature that played before the film in theaters. You can watch it with or without commentary. This is a wildly different piece from the company, directed by a long-standing animator Bud Luckey. If you're not sure who he is, you can watch a three-minute featurette on who he is and his inspiration for this short. (*****)
Coming in just under two hours, this is the not just the longest Pixar film ever made, it's the longest CG animated movie. It feels like it. Oh, and to all those reviewers out there who thought it was funny to call "The Incredibles" incredible, please stop. That's not a funny play on words; it's stupid. Thank you for your consideration.