Pixar’s most ‘Incredible’ film comes to DVD

By Pat Brown

Rarely has there been an animated film more entertaining, visually engaging and genuinely heartfelt than Brad Bird’s The Incredibles. This Pixar/Disney film, released to DVD on March 15, has the charm of a James Bond movie, the conventions of the superhero genre and the wit of a satire. It will entertain children, but does not cater to them. In fact, an adult will probably find more to enjoy in this movie than a child, with its deft comedic depiction of middle America and parenthood, its lampooning of action movie clich‚s and its frankly adult take on the middle-aged marriage hump.

Robert Parr (Craig T. Nelson) was known as Mr. Incredible, a costumed hero with super strength, until he was sued by a man who was trying to commit suicide when Mr. Incredible saved him. This caused public opinion of superheroes to sour, forcing them into hiding. Now Bob works at a dead-end job for a boss (Wallace Shawn) with a serious Napoleon complex. Bob is bored with his life and tries to relive his superhero days, though his wife, Helen (a.k.a. Elastigirl, voiced by Holly Hunter), discourages him. Not only is it illegal, he also now has three children to raise, each with their own superpowers.

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One day Bob gets an offer to start working as a superhero again and jumps at the opportunity. The ensuing adventure involves not only convincing his wife that he is not having an affair, but also saving the world, yet again, this time with the help of his family.

The plot of the movie bears a striking resemblance to the 1987 graphic novel Watchmen, written by Alan Moore. It too deals with superheroes that have gone over the hill and must don the capes and cowls yet again to deal with a new threat. Even the master plan of the villain from The Incredibles mirrors that of the villain in Watchmen. Bird, who also wrote the movie, draws from several other sources as well. The characters and “squabbling family” concept are derivative of The Fantastic Four, and several action sequences seem to be inspired by Star Wars, the James Bond films and even the Godzilla series. By taking things we have seen before, putting them in a new context (the animated film), and adding the uniquely American suburban experience, Bird creates something that is not Watchmen, not The Fantastic Four, but a movie that is an original – a breath of fresh air in a genre dominated by the vacuous Shrek.

The disc includes three short cartoons, numerous character bios, several making-of short features, and even an odd documentary about the life of the girl who plays Bob’s daughter Violet (Sarah Vowell). The best of them, though, is the cartoon titled “Mr. Incredible and Pals,” a parody of the Superfriends-like TV shows of the ’60s. You can even watch it with the commentary of Mr. Incredible and Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson), in which the latter complains about being made into a white guy on the cartoon.

The Incredibles won Best Animated Feature this year at the Oscars, an award it certainly deserves although I think the category is stupid. Because only a few animated movies are released a year, quality as well as not-so-quality films have to share the nominations. Rumor has it the film came close to getting a Best Picture nomination as well, which it also deserved. Movies like this prove that if an animated movie is truly great, if it is intelligent and witty but at the same time enjoyable for all audiences, it can transcend what is supposedly a children’s genre and become one of the best films of the year.