J.D. Lafrance
The Incredibles: Collector’s Edition DVD Review

The Incredibles: Collector’s Edition

August 29, 2005

Director: Brad Bird,
Starring: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, Jason Lee, Eli Fucile, Maeve Andrews, Wallace Shawn, Spencer Fox, Sarah Vowell, ,

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DVD Review

J.D. Lafrance

The Incredibles (2004) marks the first effort from the collaboration between Brad Bird (responsible for The Iron Giant) and Pixar. Where Warner Brothers had no idea how to market Bird’s first film, Disney had no problem with promoting his new movie and it was a huge hit. The Incredibles is also the first Pixar film with human beings as the central characters, instead of relegated to the margins. Perhaps they were waiting for computer animation to progress enough to render them convincingly or maybe they were waiting for someone with the right vision to realize them. They found it with Bird who uses his cartoonish style of caricature to exaggerate a character’s physical features and body gestures to make them more identifiable to the audience.

Rescuing a cat from a tree and stopping bank robbers is all in a day’s work for costumed superhero, Mr. Incredible (Nelson). In fact, the city is populated with flashy costumed crime fighters, like Elastigirl (Hunter) and Frozone (Jackson). However, things go sour when Mr. Incredible is sued for saving someone who tried to commit suicide and didn’t want to be saved. The lawsuit spawns several more against other superheroes forcing them into early retirement. Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl get married and settle into domestic bliss as Bob and Helen Parr with three children. Over the years, Bob has let himself go (now with a formidable gut) and is relegated to a boring desk job at an insurance company where he daydreams about saving the day as his alter ego. Early retirement is starting to take its toll on Bob and his family. The kids fight with each other while Bob and Helen get into heated arguments. Eventually, Bob is lured back into his old superhero ways as a foe from his past threatens to kill the existing superheroes and rule the world.

The characters’ facial features and body gestures perfectly match their voices, giving these computer animated figures depth and personality instead of being too perfect looking and distancing. The attention to detail is fantastic. The film mimics grainy, old newsreel footage that explains how the superheroes fell out of favour. The texture of the clothes that the characters wear is very well done, as Bob slouches in his office seat, the wrinkles in the shirt are clearly visible and beautifully rendered. The use of lighting and shadow – for mood and atmosphere – is all up to the high standards of what we’ve come to expect from Pixar. Now, they are only limited by the storytellers they enlist.

Brad Bird knows how to tell a good story, which, in some respects parallels the story arc of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ graphic novel, Watchmen—albeit in a more broadly comedic way. Once popular costumed superheroes are forced to retire by a society that takes them for granted. Years pass and they are gradually compelled to get past their own self-doubts and become active again in order to deal with one of their own killing off their contemporaries for sinister purposes.

Bird’s playful sense of humour pokes gentle fun at the superhero genre. The bad guy is prone to “monologuing,” making long speeches that declare his intentions—a staple of superhero comic books for years. However, most of the film’s humour comes from Bob’s futile attempts to maintain a normal life and keep his kids and their emerging powers under control (and a secret).

The Incredibles continues Pixar’s unprecedented streak of box office and critical successes. With each film they have further advanced the art of computer animation and this film is no different. However, Bird brings his own unique vision that separates his movie from the rest of Pixar’s canon. It is a refreshing new perspective that features Bird’s obsession with the ‘50s and superheroes. The Incredibles is a near perfect blend of populist sensibilities with an engaging and entertaining story that never condescends to children or alienates adults. Like other Pixar films it will endure because it appeals to people of all ages.

Special Features:

As is typical with previous Pixar DVDs, The Incredibles is jam-packed with a wealth of extra material. All of the animated menus keep in flavour and tone with the look and feel of the movie, which is a really nice touch.

The first disc features an audio commentary by writer/director Brad Bird and producer John Walker. Bird points out that the film’s opening flashback sequence was given a slightly golden hue and saturated with colour to establish that this was the best time of the characters’ lives. The two men constantly praise their hard-working crew for achieving the look and feel that they strove to achieve. Bird touches upon some of the film’s themes and plot points in this engaging and informative track.

There is a second commentary track by several of the film’s animators. They talk about some of the techniques used in the movie. The strengths of caricature vs. realistic art are discussed and it is pointed out that caricature brings out the essence of a character.

The second disc starts off with “Jack-Jack Attack,” an animated short film created specifically for the DVD that stars the Parr’s baby. It shows us what happened between Jack-Jack and the babysitter while the Incredibles were off saving the world.

There are six deleted scenes in various unfinished forms (often animated storyboards) that are individually introduced by Bird who puts each one into context and explains why it was cut. He does an excellent job talking about each scene.

The “Behind the Scenes” section includes a detailed Making of Featurette (and a collection of additional footage) that shows how much time, energy and hard work went into making The Incredibles. One quickly gets the impression that this was a fun, crazy crew led by Bird who was the craziest and most demanding of them all. You get a pretty good idea why they are succeeding time and time again while Disney is failing. Pixar is full of bright, young people willing to try anything to achieve their vision. This featurette covers all aspects, from story to character design to music and even the customary blooper reel.

“Top Secret” features a “vintage” Mr. Incredible cartoon that is a spot-on parody of crudely animated cartoons from the ‘60s. Craig T. Nelson and Samuel L. Jackson even reprise their roles in a mock audio commentary trashing the cartoon! There are also beautifully designed profiles of all the costumed characters from the movie, even minor ones that are only briefly mentioned.

“Boundin’” is the animated short film that appeared in front of The Incredibles when it debuted in theatres. It tells the simple tale of a happy-go-lucky sheep shorn of his wool, much to his embarrassment. Included is an optional audio commentary by writer/director Bud Luckey (he also provided all the voices) who has an easy-going, laid back charm that is very engaging. There is also a brief profile of Luckey that sheds light on this unsung hero of the Pixar studio. He came from a hand-drawn animated background and was the fifth animator hired. This is a fascinating inclusion to the set.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance


Rating: 99%



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