Format: DVD from personal collection on laptop.
I love The Incredibles. Seriously, I love this film in a way that I love few others. This is going to be another review where I don’t have much (or anything) bad to say about the film in question. This is my favorite animated film without question. It’s not only a great action and adventure film, it’s not only a unique superhero film, it’s also, despite the animation and superheroing, a film that presents one of the most realistic movie families in a very long time.
If you haven’t seen this, first of all, I feel badly for you. You’re missing a film that is top tier in every genre this belongs in and you should go watch it immediately. But just in case you haven’t seen this before, a run-through of the basics is in order. We start in the past, during a heyday of superheroes. We’re introduced to some representative heroes: Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson), Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) and Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) in a newsreel interview. Shortly thereafter, we get to see Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl in action. Oh, and we also get to see them married.
But things change quickly. Mr. Incredible is sued by a man he saves from killing himself, which opens up a string of lawsuits against superheroes. Public opinion turns against them and the supers are forced to retire and blend in with the rest of society. And so, we catch up to the current Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl as Bob and Helen Parr. Bob works a dead-end insurance job and Helen raises their kids, Violet (Sarah Vowell), Dashiell (Spencer Fox), and baby Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile and Maeve Andrews). Violet is a loner and social misfit, Dash is a trouble maker at school, and Jack-Jack is evidently the only member of the Parr family without super powers.
Bob and his friend Lucius, who is also Frozone from the opening, spend Wednesday nights listening to the police scanner and looking for crimes to stop anonymously. One night they are followed, though, which leads to Bob being offered a surreptitious heroing job. Since he also loses his insurance job the same day, he takes it. The job is working for a shadowy government agency, at least according to Mirage (Elizabeth Pena), his contact. A top-secret robot has gotten out of control, requiring the talents of Mr. Incredible to stop it.
And here is the genius of the film. While Bob spends his time getting back into shape, he hides his job loss from Helen, who begins to suspect that he’s having an affair. Eventually Bob contacts Edna Mode (director Brad Bird), the former designer of hero outfits, to fix his suit. As he goes off for another mission to capture an improved renegade robot, Helen is contacted by Edna, leading to her discovery of Bob’s new extracurricular activities. And, best of all, he’s not working for a government agency, but has been targeted by an old enemy, which sends Helen and the two older kids into action to rescue Bob from danger.
Actually, this is best of all—that summary leaves off with a good 40 minutes to go.
The Incredibles has everything a good action film should have. There are great action sequences and fights, clever battles, chase sequences, and a culminating battle that destroys a couple of city blocks. We get to see the entire family use its powers throughout and even discover new strengths that they didn’t know they had. Both Bob and Helen change dramatically from their domestic existence at the start of the film by the time things wrap up. And, the whole thing is wildly entertaining.
The Incredibles does pretty much everything right, but it’s worth pointing out a few areas where it is exceptionally good. The first is its depiction of family life. Bob and Helen, despite having super powers, are a fairly normal couple. They bicker, they disagree, and they often want different things. Violet and Dash have a completely believable relationship as well. They actively dislike each other in public, but when Violet is threatened at one point, it’s Dash who comes to save her, risking his own life to do it. These are super powered kids, but they’re real kids, and Bob and Helen are real parents. Remove the super powers and they’re an incredibly real family.
The Incredibles is a very smart film as well. There are plenty of inside jokes here that work in the context of the film even if they aren’t fully understood by the audience. Edna Mode, one of the great Pixar comic characters, is based on Edith Head. Bad guy Syndrome (Jason Lee) was drawn to look like director Brad Bird. A great deal of the film is designed not as a superhero film, but a James Bond film. There’s a ‘60s vibe to a lot of this, including the excellent soundtrack.
It also doesn’t lose its sense of humor. Moments occur throughout the film that are genuinely funny, like Elastigirl seeing her own reflection while wearing her new costume for the first time and checking out the size of her butt in the Spandex or Bob Parr’s confrontation with his boss, Mr. Huph (Wallace Shawn).
Sure, it’s no shock that I wrote a glowing review of this. If you don’t like this, I feel sorry for you. Oh, and you should get this on disc so you can see the accompanying short, Jack-Jack Attack.
Why to watch The Incredibles: Because it’s awesome.
Why not to watch: There’s no good reason not to watch this.