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Walt Disney Home Video presents
The Incredibles (2004)

"No matter how many times you save the world, it always manages to get back in jeopardy again. Sometimes I just want it to stay saved! You know, for a little bit? I feel like the maid; 'I just cleaned up this mess! Can we keep it clean for, for ten minutes? Please?'"
- Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson)

Review By: Joel Cunningham  
Published: March 14, 2005

Stars: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Spencer Fox, Sarah Vowell
Other Stars: Jason Lee, Samuel L. Jackson, Bud Luckey, Brad Bird, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger
Director: Brad Bird

MPAA Rating: PG for action violence
Run Time: 01h:55m:11s
Release Date: March 15, 2005
UPC: 786936279979
Genre: animation

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

If I had to guess, I'd say there wasn't one Fox executive who left the theater smiling after viewing The Incredibles last summer. Not that they didn't enjoy the film—there's just no way the studio's summer 2005 superhero tentpole The Fantastic Four can hope to compete with the latest Pixar marvel, which is also about a family of powerful crime fighters and which just happens to be not only one of the best films of 2004, but the best comic book movie ever made.

As The Incredibles begins, superheroes Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson), Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), and Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson), have finally met their match—personal injury lawyers. Sure, the differently-powered individuals can stop supervillains, but they cost the government millions in damages at the same time (you try destroying an evil robot without knocking down a few buildings). Hit with a lawsuit after saving a man trying to commit suicide ("You didn't save my life, you ruined my death!"), Mr. Incredible is forced into hiding along with the rest of the supers, including his wife Elastigirl. As Bob and Helen Parr, the two have to try to live normal lives and hide their powers, which becomes more difficult 15 years later, after they have children—shrinking Violet (Sarah Vowell), who can turn invisible and make force fields, and Dashell "Dash" (Spencer Fox), who can run at super speed (good thing their parents gave them such attribute-appropriate names).

Helen just wants a normal family life, but Bob feels boxed-in by his dull job at an insurance company, and often moonlights as a hero with friend Frozone. One night, the two rescue people from a burning building, drawing the attention of the mysterious Mirage, who wants to recruit superheroes for a secret underground project. Bob sees his chance to be super again, even if it means lying to his wife and children. There's a villain, of course—he calls himself Syndrome (Jason Lee), and he has a very personal connection to Mr. Incredible.

The Incredibles plot is familiar but never formulaic, a comfortable amalgam of splashy action sequences, robot battles, subtle sarcasm, and James Bond-style suspense—perhaps this isn't the first film to combine equal parts comedy, family drama, and explosions, but I can't think of one that does it better. Writer/director Brad Bird, who crafted 1999's stunning The Iron Giant (guaranteed to make grown men cry like no cartoon since Bambi), realizes that the point of storytelling isn't to tell of fantastic deeds, but to paint a picture of those who do them. In an age when so many filmmakers (particularly in animation) are more than willing to populate the screen with one-note sidekicks, Bird gives us the Parr family, four (plus one baby) CGI characters that are well-rounded, perfectly rendered, and entirely three-dimensional (only one of those was intended as a computer joke). People have called The Incredibles a technical marvel because the characters actually seem to act and portray real emotion; I say, all the fancy facial expression software wouldn't mean a thing if those characters weren't written believably.

And they are—The Incredibles gets the family dynamic just right. I believe the slight resentment Bob feels toward his wife for adjusting so well to "normal" life while he still longs to be a hero. I believe her doubt and insecurity when she fears their marriage may be falling apart. I certainly believe Dash and Violet are siblings as they bicker, and later, bond when they work together to save their parents. There are some amusing side characters as well, like the Edith Head-ish Edna Mode (voiced by Bird), who makes her living designing hero costumes and is the only person who makes the supers nervous ("No capes!").

Yeah, yeah, so enough about all that. It's also important to note that the movie features about seven of the most exhilarating action sequences ever put to celluloid. And those are smart too, with a continuing emphasis on character. Take, for example, the "100 yard Dash" sequence, in which Dash must use his only power—speed—to outwit the guards on Syndrome's island fortress. Rather than stringing together a bunch of cool shots, Bird actually lets us watch Dash, who has been forced to hide his abilities his entire life, discover what he can do. The moment when he realizes he can run on water put a smile on my face that stayed there for the rest of the film. The subsequent sequence, in which all four family members, plus Frozone, work together to defeat Syndrome's giant robot, didn't hurt either.

The Incredibles is a triumph of design, which is saying a lot, considering the way each Pixar film has raised the bar for digital animation. But it isn't just computer trickery—Bird is a great director as well, and he stages every action sequence and domestic scene for maximum story effect, with countless imaginative touches that will keep you coming back for another viewing (my favorite is a scene with Helen that reveals a more frustrating side to her super-stretch ability). Top it all off with composer Michael Giacchino's John Barry-esque score (and how he missed an Oscar nod for it, I'll never understand), and you've got the makings for the most incred... astonishing animated film in years.

Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The Incredibles image quality more than stands up to previous Disney/Pixar releases. Everything, from colors, to detail, to image clarity, is top-notch. I never noticed any negative elements—not even a hint of graininess, artifacting, or aliasing. The finest elements, like the textures of characters' clothing, are visible even on a 27-inch TV. Note there are separate widescreen and full frame versions, so make sure to check the packaging before you buy.

Image Transfer Grade: A+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
English, French, Spanishyes

Audio Transfer Review: Pixar's film has received a mix worthy of such a visceral action spectacular. The DD 5.1 EX track makes use of all the channels, with strong dialogue from the center and non-stop panning from the front mains to the rears. If your set-up can handle it, the extra rear center speaker adds extra oomph. There is also an impressive amount of bass, used in both subtle and more straightforward ways.

Audio Transfer Grade: A


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
3 Original Trailer(s)
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring Cars, Chicken Little, Cinderella: SE, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind/Porco Rosso/The Cat Returns, Lilo & Stitch 2
6 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
11 Featurette(s)
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by director Brad Bird and producer John Walker; animators
Packaging: Amaray Double
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Two animated shorts
  2. Art galleries
  3. Supers profiles
Extras Review: Pixar has long produced some of the best DVDs on the market (look no further than the groundbreaking two-disc package for A Bug's Life or the coveted Toy Story: Ultimate Toy Box for prime examples of the studio's excellent bonus material). But after Monsters, Inc., and especially Finding Nemo, it seemed they had fallen into a bit of a rut, with lots and lots of short featurettes that covered much the same ground. Maybe it's just that I enjoyed the movie so much (not that I disliked the others), but The Incredibles DVD is definitely a return to form, and includes perhaps the most all-around entertaining and informative set of supplements on just about any disc I've reviewed. Also, not that all of the material on Disc 2 is subtitled and presented in anamorphic widescreen.

Most everything can be found on Disc 2, but there are a few goodies on the first platter, including an introduction by director Brad Bird and two commentary tracks. The first features Bird and producer John Walker. It's better than average, full of chatter about story development and technical challenges. Though all of the computer talk gets a little repetitive (at one point, Bird notes that all he's doing is yammering about how difficult each scene in terms of underwater animation, or animating hair, or complicated fabric, etc.), the discussion of the script development process was always worth listening to. Pixar has always been focused on putting story before technical wizardry, and it's fascinating to hear how much thought and planning went into each plot point and emotional beat.

A second track, featuring a host of Pixar animators, was way too technical for my tastes, with lots of dry discussion about all the effort that went into every tiny detail up on screen. It's still a decent track, but not something I'd otherwise listen to all the way through.

The first platter starts off with the requisite Disney trailers, including a sneak peek at Pixar's next offering, summer 2006's Cars, which, from the lackluster trailer, looks like it might be the studio's first misstep. But who knows? June 2006 is a long way off.

Disc 2 includes the hero's share of extras, and just in case you have trouble navigating the material, there is both a paper insert and an on-disc index to guide you through (though there are far fewer menus and far less button-pushing on this disc than on other Pixar releases).

After watching an introduction to the supplements from Bird, you'll want to check out the new short film Jack Jack Attack, focusing on the youngest member of the Incredibles. It actually takes place during the film proper, and fills in some of the off-screen action (for those of you wondering how a teenage sitter deals with a baby bursting into flame repeatedly). It's a very funny four-minute piece, with some wonderful effects animation and one particularly hilarious music cue—much better than the laugh-free Far, Far Away Idol addition to the Shrek 2 disc.

I'm less enamored with the other short on this disc, the Academy Award-nominated Boundin', which played before The Incredibles in theaters. It's about a sheep that has to learn self-confidence after being sheared, and though it has a catchy song and great animation, it's a little cutesy for my tastes. Still, I found myself warming to it after listening to commentary from its director, Bud Luckey, a veteran Pixar staffer with three decades of experience in hand-drawn animation, and watching the profile Who is Bud Luckey? Both make it pretty clear that Luckey is a pretty cuddly guy himself, and it's hard to hate on the man who decided Toy Story's Woody needed to be a cowboy.

I often find deleted scenes to be fairly dull, particularly for animated films, where they might be presented in rough storyboard form only. This disc actually turns them into a watchable feature, however, but combining them with interviews with Brad Bird and John Walker explaining exactly why they were cut. It helps also that the footage includes voiceover audio (in some cases, for scenes snipped late in production, with the final cast) and fairly substantial animatics rather than simple storyboards. All told, there are six deleted scenes that total 34:20 (including the director's comments). Most interesting are an alternate opening (which would have shown the Parr family trying to fit in at a neighborhood barbeque and which introduced Syndrome at the beginning of the film as a one-off villain) and a different version of the plane crash sequence that included an innocent pilot character who would have been a victim (Bird believed Syndrome's actions needed to have a tangible price, but that meant he needed a backstory, and it simply ate up too much screen time and didn't really work).

The main menu option Behind the Scenes allows access to most of the traditional making-of material. First is a 40-minute "fly on the wall" documentary Making of The Incredibles, which follows Brad Bird from his first day at Pixar in 2000, through story development, and the toils of the animation process. More natural pieces, which combine talking head interviews with lots of production footage, are generally the most entertaining when it comes to DVD extras, and this one is no exception.

Under the heading More Making Of... are 10 brief technical featurettes, with a total running time of 40:00 if you use the "play all" option. Most of this information has been covered on other Pixar discs, and the process seems fairly similar, save the subject matter. Featurettes include: Story, Character Design, E Volution (about Brad Bird developing the voice for Edna Mode and how that influenced character design), Building Humans, Set Design, Sound, Music, Lighting, and Tools.

This section also includes a gallery of production art (interesting, but far less extensive than what was included on previous discs, though there are still around 100 images to click through) and promotional material, including the original teaser trailer, two theatrical trailers, a commercial for the franchise videogame, and six minutes of faux PR interviews between members of the CGI cast and various CG-enhanced television personalities From E! and Access Hollywood.

Top Secret houses some fairly off-the-wall features that I thought were a lot of fun and (and it's not often I can say this these days) very original. There is a "rediscovered" pilot episode for a television show starring Mr. Incredible and Frozone (oh, and their sidekick, a cute hoppity bunny) called Mr. Incredible and Pals that mimics the old comic book serials in a very low-budget fashion (characters don't move, and their mouths aren't animated, but actual human mouths matted in). The dialogue is pretty funny ("Hold up there, Frozone! We can't keep this traffic piled up. There's nothing more important than keeping our country's automobiles on the go!"), and the entire concept is totally in keeping with the spirit of the film. The piece also includes commentary from Mr. Incredible and Frozone themselves. Frozone is particularly irate that Mr. Incredible allowed the use of their likenesses for a cheap cartoon, and also the fact that his character is white, or tan at best.

Supers Files is a government database of Supers and their powers that offers a bit of backstory for every hero mentioned in the movie (even the ones whose names flash onscreen for only a second). The stats listening civilian identities and powers are a given (and humorous at times—Gazerbeamspends his days as an inner-city pro-bono lawyer), but there are also vintage audio interviews with every one of them (24 in all) that go above and beyond (I liked the one with Elastigirl complaining about how quickly she wears out clothes with her stretching powers). It's easily one of the most creative, appropriate features I've ever seen on a DVD, and an excellent inclusion.

The case prominently advertises a blooper reel, but these Incredi-Blunders aren't the staged line flubs and gags produced for A Bug's Life and Monsters, Inc. These are real bloopers caused by computer coding errors that make a character's face turn inside out or keep fabrics from moving as they should. They're more bizarre than funny, but there are a few good laughs in the 1:40 reel.

A rather random inclusion that turned out to be a real treat, Vowellett is a 10-minute video essay from writer Sarah Vowell, who provides the voice of Violet. She's adorable, smart, sarcastic, and self-deprecating, and I could have watched a lot longer as she compared her Violet action figure to her other prized collectibles, including several different busts of Abraham Lincoln.

Easter eggs are hidden on nearly every menu screen on Disc 2, and all you need to do to find them is watch carefully. When a small icon of Syndrome's attack robot appears in the corner of the screen on any menu, just press right on your remote to highlight it, then press enter. Each menu seems to have two different eggs, so you'll have to repeat the process if you want to see them all. It's worth it—there is some good material hidden here, including alternate takes, animation gags, and footage of Pixar staffers goofing around.

The production is top-notch, especially the Disc 1 menus, which mimic the film's outstanding credit sequence.

Extras Grade: A


Final Comments

I could go for the pull quote and call The Incredibles a perfect piece of entertainment, or the best this (comic book movie), or the best that (American animated film, CGI or hand-drawn, in decades), but it doesn't need my help. With Pixar's track record, were you really expecting anything less?


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