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Pixar on DVD: Toy Story • A Bug's Life • Toy Story 2 • Monsters, Inc. • Finding Nemo • The Incredibles • Cars • Ratatouille • WALL•E • Up • Toy Story 3 • Cars 2 • Brave

Pixar on Blu-ray: Toy Story • A Bug's Life • Toy Story 2 • Monsters, Inc. • Finding Nemo • The Incredibles • Cars • Ratatouille • WALL•E • Up • Toy Story 3 • Cars 2 • Brave

The Incredibles: 2-Disc Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy Review

The Incredibles movie poster The Incredibles

Theatrical Release: November 5, 2004 / Running Time: 115 Minutes / Rating: PG

Writer/Director: Brad Bird

Voice Cast: Craig T. Nelson (Bob Parr / Mr. Incredible), Holly Hunter (Helen Parr / Elastigirl), Jason Lee (Buddy Pine / Syndrome), Sarah Vowell (Violet Parr), Spencer Fox (Dashiell "Dash" Parr), Samuel L. Jackson (Lucius Best / Frozone), Elizabeth Peρa (Mirage), Brad Bird (Edna "E" Mode), Wallace Shawn (Gilbert Huph), Bud Luckey (Rick Dicker), Bret Parker (Kari McKeen), Lou Romano (Bernie Kropp), John Ratzenberger (The Underminer), Jean Sincere (Muriel Hogenson), Dominique Louis (Bomb Voyage), Wayne Canney (Principal), Teddy Newton (Newsreel Narrator), Michael Bird (Tony Rydinger), Kimberly Adair Clark (Honey Best), Eli Fucile (Jack-Jack Parr), Maeve Andrews (Jack-Jack Parr), John Walker (Reverend - uncredited)

Buy The Incredibles from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy Combo • 2-Disc Collector's Edition DVD

It's been fun seeing the rest of the world come to recognize something I figured out many years earlier, that Pixar Animation Studios makes extraordinary movies. Not that this was ever a great secret. Toy Story, the studio's first film, was the top-grossing film of its year. Even if it was the lowest-grossing film of the 1990s to make that claim, there was no denying its warm reception, which saw it lavished with praise, nominated for an original screenplay Academy Award, and win a special achievement Oscar.
Sixteen years after its debut, we're now able to see the film as a bearer of change for the industry, its success the start of animation's move from hand-drawn methods to computers, a move that expanded the playing field to the point where every major studio has released an animated film in the past few years.

That there hasn't been the widest variety to these offerings underscores that many of the studios view Pixar and their earliest hit comedies as the model to aspire to. That has driven Pixar to stay ahead of the competition both technically and creatively, keeping them determined not to repeat themselves and not to be viewed as predictable or familiar. (I realize that these points would be much more salient had this review been finished prior to Cars 2's release.) The new Pixar (again, disregard Cars 2) has fired on all levels, obtaining reliable commercial success and, even more impressively, deafening critical acclaim. The latter has made Pixar a fixture in year-end "best of" discussions and, with the Best Picture field expanded to ten, has even seen the Academy defy their historical anti-animation bias to bestow nominations for the top prize on Up and Toy Story 3. Had a ten-deep field been enacted earlier (and it's recently been revised again to between five and ten, based on a minimum percentage of first-place votes), Pixar likely would have competed for Best Picture several times earlier. If the ten screenplay nominees (five original, five adapted) are any indication, then Toy Story, Finding Nemo, WALL•E, and The Incredibles would have been probable nominees as well.

After the government sentences superheroes to anonymity, Bob Parr can only relive the glory days in his office full of mementos and media clippings.

Revisiting and reassessing the Pixar canon has been of much interest to me. In the months leading up to Toy Story 3's release, I rewatched the studio's first ten features, eager to see them in a new light and make sure they lived up to my fond and ever so slightly faded memories. And they did. I'm still not crazy about Ratatouille, although I can appreciate much of it. For all of the rest (excluding Cars 2), I am comfortable declaring my love. The love varies from near-perfection to being aware of certain issues but not terribly concerned by them. If I'm able to divide the ten beloved works into those two groups, five of them end up with the unconditional adoration needed to classify as all-time favorites. The Incredibles is one of them, along with the absurdly undervalued A Bug's Life and the three Toy Story movies (whose middle installment is closest to being on the bubble).

It seems like every Pixar movie has some minor distinction; their first overall, first in the wider aspect ratio, first sequel, first film set in a world without humans, and so on. The Incredibles has a bunch of Pixar firsts attached to it. It's the first to earn a PG rating, the first to focus on human characters, and, more importantly, the first written and directed by a single individual and someone who wasn't already a part of the studio's creative team. Incredibles, the company's sixth film, brought Brad Bird to Pixar.

Bob Parr is not fulfilled by the drab office job that sees him answering to tiny tyrant Gilbert Huph. Though she can stretch to meet his height, Helen still doesn't see eye-to-eye with Bob on their situation.

In the late 1970s, Bird was a classmate of Pixar co-founder/director John Lasseter at California Institute of the Arts. Bird attended CalArts on a scholarship from Disney, whose Milt Kahl, one of Walt's legendary "Nine Old Men", had mentored a teenaged Bird. After graduating, Bird's Disney employment was short-lived; he left after working, sans credit, on 1981's The Fox and the Hound. Back then, the industry was such that if you were not working at Disney and weren't Don Bluth, you didn't really have any shot at being a director of animated feature films.

Bird cut his teeth on an animated 1987 episode of the ordinarily live-action Steven Spielberg-produced anthology TV series "Amazing Stories." The same year, Bird was one of four credited with the screenplay for *batteries not included, a Spielberg-produced fantasy about alien machines aiding an elderly New York couple (real-life spouses Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy) in need. Two years later, Bird became a part of "The Simpsons" at its beginnings, serving as "executive consultant" for eight seasons and also directing two early episodes. "Family Dog", Bird's "Amazing Stories" episode, was adapted into a short-lived cartoon series in 1992. He also received executive consultant credit on seven of the 23 episodes of "The Critic" (1994-95). Bird's feature directing debut was 1999's The Iron Giant, a critically celebrated box office flop based on a 1968 book by Ted Hughes. After Warner closed its animation division, Pixar was glad to throw a second chance Bird's way and The Incredibles would earn widespread public approval plus even greater critical favor than hand-drawn Iron Giant had brought him.

On the mission to rescue her husband, flexible Elastigirl gets caught between doors. The Parrs' young children, Violet and Dash, must use the superpowers they've long kept hidden when their lives are suddenly jeopardized.

As you have no reason not to know by now, The Incredibles is an original tale about superheroes. The film opens fifteen years in the past, a time when no shortage of individuals protect the people with stylish costumes and catchy monikers. Among them are powerful Mr. Incredible (voiced by "Coach" star Craig T. Nelson) and flexible Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), who take just enough time off from world-saving to get married under their unassuming secret identities of Bob and Helen Parr. Among Mr. Incredible's final heroics as a bachelor was saving a suicidal man from his demise, an act that gets Mr. I sued. That case opens the floodgates for dissatisfied civilians to seek recompense from other superheroes. Enough come forward to turn the public against their protectors and for the government to pass the Superhero Relocation Act sentencing the gifted to average anonymity.

That is still where we're at when the film jumps ahead to the 1960s-ish present, in which Bob is an insurance claims adjuster and Helen has her hands full with their three kids: shy Violet (Sarah Vowell), boisterous Dash (Spencer Fox), and adorable newborn Jack-Jack. Violet, who wields invisibility and the ability to generate force fields, and the super-fast Dash must keep their powers hidden from the world, as must their parents. Bob is especially disgruntled by this status quo. He comes alive in his weekly escape from rush hour traffic and his colorless cubicle, outings with his best friend Lucius (Samuel L. Jackson), a fellow super-in-hiding who slings ice as Frozone. The two listen to a police scanner, awaiting opportunities for stealth heroics, which they carry out without even telling their wives.

Bob takes secrecy to a new level when he loses his cool at work in grand fashion and loses his job in the process. That frees him up for the mysterious employment offer coming his way in a self-destructing holographic tablet. The gig pays him handsomely and takes him to a remote jungle island where he reports to Mirage (Elizabeth Peρa), a thin, white-haired siren who warns of the risks of doing battle with the Omnidroid, a potent, expensive robotic device that is out of control and must be defeated. That, of course, is a charade, part of the covert master plan of the spiteful Syndrome (Jason Lee), a fiery-haired young man with emotional scars from childhood and a hunger to rid the world of superheroes.

A scorned sidekick in youth, Buddy Pine has grown into the villain Syndrome, who demonstrates his zero point energy to a captive Mr. Incredible.

So many superlatives have been placed on so many of Pixar's films that it almost feels useless to add mine to the chorus. And yet, my enthusiasm for Pixar's feature films is intense and virtually unrivaled by any other creator in the vast history of art.
I don't believe that I can overstate my appreciation, which has strengthened in recent years by watching thousands of films, almost all of which fail to produce the same level of emotion and enjoyment. I've read plenty of discourse on all their films and while humanity is as unanimously approving of most Pixar productions as any contemporary entertainment, I'm not convinced the praise has gone far enough.

When you watch as many movies as I do, one viewing is enough for most things for the indefinite future. I've now seen The Incredibles close to ten times and I have not tired of it in the slightest. Its charms are too numerous and too powerful for me to give any less than my full attention and admiration. It is an extraordinarily crafted film full of humor, heart, and excitement. Brad Bird has created a rich and compelling universe with indelible characters and a mature, appealing family dynamic in the foreground. There are enough ideas and ambitions here to sustain several films. Every plot point adds something and without belaboring or wasting any time. You could literally write an academic chapter on any element, event, or exchange here and uncover layers of intrigue factoring into the film's countless achievements. The Incredibles is ripe for discussion on everything from marital challenges to celebrating mediocrity to superhero attire.

This immensely cinematic experience packs plenty into its 115 minutes. It honors and scrutinizes the ever-popular culture of superheroes and questions how it might fare in our litigious modern society. It testifies to the thrill of doing what you love. It contrasts alluring globe-trotting adventure with mundane everyday life. And yet, even if you don't care or think about subtext, the movie still works terrifically at face value, creating palpable conflict, worthy adversaries, and exhilarating action, all of which play off the strengths of story, character, and atmosphere.

As the gravy on top of a feast that is already practically perfect in every way, the whole thing looks and sounds amazing. The film has extraordinary style to complement its substance, a distinctive design that is both realistic and cartoony. The animation and scenery reached tall new heights back in 2004 and they hold up perfectly today. Perhaps only WALL•E has put Pixar's technology to more stunning effect, but The Incredibles still bests it in aesthetic wonder. And while The Incredibles being Pixar's only film to win a sound category Oscar probably doesn't mean anything to you (other than reminding of WALL•E's baffling losses), you are almost certain to appreciate Michael Giacchino's prominent and memorable score, his first for the studio (just his second feature film overall) and oddly his only one for them not Oscar-nominated, until Cars 2, anyway.

Looking like a bad guy in a ski mask, a thirsty Frozone requires a drink of water. Excitable, opinionated superhero costume designer Edna Mode (voiced by director Brad Bird himself) makes a big impression fast with phrases like "hobo suit."

Thanks to Cars 2, the topic most on people's minds regarding Pixar at the moment is sequels. Sequels have been more ubiquitous than usual lately, with all of summer's biggest films extending familiar franchises. They're a complicated art form, typically potent commercially and inherently unoriginal creatively. With Toy Story 2 and, to a greater degree, Toy Story 3, Pixar proved that their sequels could be every bit as spectacular as their original movies. And now, Cars 2 has proven that the world's greatest track record doesn't mean adult viewers' doubts were unfounded. There are many explanations for why Cars 2 doesn't live up to Pixar's standards and I hope to go into them in detail this fall, should this site continue to exist (read our pitiful Google-scorned sob story here) when the movie is released in disc form.

In the meantime, Cars 2's critical dismissal and even less expected box office underperformance may very well have consequences for a second Incredibles movie, often the one follow-up Pixar fans concede they'd like to see. With the unnecessary-sounding Monsters University (a prequel to Monsters, Inc.) on the schedule for June 2013, that means that in a stretch of four Pixar movies, three will have been non-original works (next year's promising Brave the exception). That's not exactly a run reflective of a studio that has prided itself on originality (initially per the terms of their Disney distribution deal, but later out of belief in invention). The string of sequels does not yet put Pixar in the same league of milking as their chief competitor, DreamWorks Animation, whose next two movies are the Shrek spin-off Puss in Boots and the wildly unwarranted Madagascar 3. But it's taken just one uncharacteristically weak film for people to start questioning Pixar and Lasseter's judgment. Having been so careful to protect its reputation, Pixar will surely not want to be as reliant upon sequels as the rest of the artistically-derided industry.

Ready to take on the Omnidroid, Mr. Incredible gives a thumb up that audiences would echo and double.

Of course, Brad Bird has already gone on the record as saying that he'd be willing to make an Incredibles 2 if and only if he had a story strong enough to support it. My appreciation of Ratatouille isn't muted enough to doubt Bird's judgment (I blame the film's supplanted original writer/director for most of its faults). I believe he really would only make a sequel worth making. But the present seems less than conducive to another Pixar sequel. As far as we know, Bird hasn't hatched a sufficient idea for one yet. Conception to release, a Pixar movie takes at least three years. Let's hope that Bird can come up with something before old age casts doubt upon Craig T. Nelson and Samuel L. Jackson's abilities to sound super.

The Incredibles made its Blu-ray debut in April in a 4-disc combo pack consisting of 2 Blu-rays, 1 DVD, and a digital copy DVD-ROM. Those ensuring their Pixar collection is up to date will know that leaves just one of the studio's films unavailable on Blu-ray, its recently dethroned box office champion Finding Nemo, whose hi-def debut has been long anticipated and repeatedly delayed. Easier not to notice is the fact that all Pixar movie Blu-rays are now available in combo packs that also include at least a DVD. (The lightweight Pixar Short Films Collection, Volume 1 will also be upgraded to combo pack in October.)

The Incredibles film clip: "Where's my super suit?"


The Incredibles: 4-Disc Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy Combo cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.39:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 5.1 DTS-HD MA ES (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (Mexican Spanish, Argentine Spanish)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (English, French, Spanish)
Both: Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (French, Spanish), Dolby Surround 2.0 (English, Descriptive Video Service)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish
DVD and Extras Closed Captioned and Subtitled in English
Blu-ray Extras Subtitled
Release Date: April 12, 2011 / Suggested Retail Price: $45.99
Four single-sided discs (1 BD-50, 1 BD-25, 1 DVD-9 & 1 DVD-5 DVD-ROM)
Thick Blue Keepcase in Embossed Cardboard Slipcover
Still available in 2-Disc Collector's Edition DVD ($29.99 SRP)


I considered The Incredibles' DVD presentation perfect, as all direct digital transfers theoretically should be. On Blu-ray, the movie now looks even more perfect, benefitting from the higher resolution and roomier disc capacity. I can't imagine anyone on any system considering this treatment less than flawless. It is truly a sight to behold, whether or not that sort of thing really excites you. I'm glad to find the animation here holds up better now than, say, A Bug's Life did seven years after its release.
Pixar has certainly continued to make technical advances, but this movie still seems to ring in the age of more sophisticated visuals we currently find ourselves in. There is no reason to think that any shot on this Blu-ray is any less than what Brad Bird approved for theaters. There are absolutely no shortcomings whatsoever. In every aspect used to critique picture quality, from sharpness and vibrancy to detail and consistency, The Incredibles is outstanding.

Likewise, the 5.1 DTS-HD ES master audio is demonstrative of Blu-ray's sound capabilities. While I've only been watching Blu-ray for five months, I can't recall any disc in the format having the impact of this delightful mix. Again, that isn't all that different from what I said about the DVD's Dolby Digital 5.1 EX track over six years ago. But the Blu-ray's less compressive format certainly improves upon standard definition norms. Everything that worked about the DVD's soundtrack works a bit better here, as the many sound effects assume greater weight, immediacy, and presence. With or without the sound editing Oscar, this is the kind of movie that surround sound was made for and the active track engulfs tastefully throughout, while also maintaining great volume levels for the three types of elements (Giacchino's score especially pleases).

The only concern aurally was a very slight lip sync issue that I'm not even sure existed. As in modern life, the characters in The Incredibles talk quickly and so even the split-second incongruity I felt I spotted was sort of noticeable, without being confirmable. My limited experience with lip sync problems suggests that they exist when you look for them and not when you don't. As far as I can tell, not one review or forum post has raised this issue, so I'm skeptical this is worth mentioning and doubtful I'd be bothered by it on a future viewing.

In a fancy touch that is standard for Pixar and just about no one else, certain onscreen text (article headlines, etc.) and credits are redone to match the language audio of your soundtrack selection.

In comparing the DVD of this combo to the movie's original one, there was not noticeable difference. The new DVD's soundtrack was slightly quieter than the earlier one's THX-certified mix and its picture seemed to possess a smidge more detail (despite a slightly lower average bit rate). Closely examining screencaps of the same shots on the two DVDs revealed extremely minute variation; for better or worse, the colors on the new DVD are a tad less warm and saturated. Still, you'll have to really stare at them side by side to notice.

The original release was far too impressive to ever make a same-format upgrade worthwhile. Obviously, the DVD here is included as a courtesy for those who still rely on DVD players and not as something to get more business from current DVD owners content with standard definition. In short, if HDTV and Blu-ray didn't exist, people would consider both this and the old DVD ideal. But after watching the same critical central scene on both of those discs, the corresponding sequence on Blu-ray displayed evident gains in both sight and sound.

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Related Reviews:
Pixar on Blu-ray: Monsters, Inc. • Finding Nemo • Cars • Cars 2 • Toy Story • Toy Story 2 • Toy Story 3
Pixar on Blu-ray (continued): WALL•E • Up • A Bug's Life • Brave • Pixar Short Films Collection, Volume 2
Pixar on DVD: Ratatouille • Finding Nemo • Pixar Short Films Collection, Volume 1
Superhero Movies: Fantastic Four • Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer • Megamind • Iron Man • Hancock • Sky High
Superhero TV: The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes! Volume 1 • The Spectacular Spider-Man: Season 1 • Fantastic Four: 1994-95 Animated Series

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Reviewed July 8, 2011.