PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Featured: Top of Home Page

Sometimes, a Title Says It All: 'The Incredibles' (Blu-ray)

A classic. A masterpiece. A flawless Blu-ray release. What more needs to be said?

The Incredibles

Rated: PG-13
Director: Brad Bird
Cast: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, Jason Lee, Teddy Newton, Spencer Fox, Sarah Vowell
Extras: 8
Studio: Pixar
Year: 2004
US date: 2011-04-12 (General release)

It happens so rarely that, when it does, your heart feels lighter than a helium-filled balloon, wanting to leap from your chest and soar as high and as far as your imagination will let it. When it does occur, it's like feasting on fun, a sensibility sensation not unlike sinking your giddy choppers deep into a succulent cauldron of contentment candy. The individual who can build such a creation demands deification—recognition as one of the mighty gods of the oft-hindered human spirit. There should be temples in his or her honor, buildings renamed or ships re-christened.

When a solitary member—or a collection of confident craftsman—of the humble race of man finds a way to tap into each and every cell of creative excitement and push the parameters of the pleasure principle to new, previously non-existent norms, there needs to be awards, cathedrals, interstates, and planets in recognition of their unnamable nobility. Such should be the fate of one Brad Bird, for giving us something as uniquely splendid as The Incredibles (available now for the first time on a stunning Blu-ray release).

At one time, Robert Parr lived in a universe of heroes and villains, champions and challengers. But when this "Mr. Incredible" accidentally saves a suicidal man who doesn't necessarily appreciate the derring-do, the resulting lawsuit tarnishes the public view of all crime fighters. As a result, the government must step in, cover the costs, and quietly relocate the gifted do-gooders, giving them inconspicuous jobs and new secret identities. This is how Bob Parr has lived for the last 15 years: insurance claims adjuster by day, disgruntled man of action on his off hours. He married Helen, Elastigirl, and they had three kids: Dash (who can run at amazing rates of speed), Violet (who can make herself invisible and conjure force fields at will), and baby Jack Jack who, as far as they know, has no discernable super skills. Along with his best friend Lucius, aka Frozone, Bob sneaks out at night and secretly tries to save the day.

One day, a strange secret message comes along, inviting the former "Mr. Incredible" to an isolated location to help with a technologically tricky robotic weapon. Bob soon learns, however, of a more notorious reason for his presence, and it will take the efforts of the entire Parr family to once again come to the rescue and save the world. It's been a long time since their powers have been put to the test, and the kids have never really been able to flex their special gifts. But time is running out, and the only way evil will be thwarted is if the family unit rises up together and takes on the challenge—though not as the Parrs. Now, they must be true to themselves and become what they have always been destined to be: The Incredibles.

The Incredibles is indeed a near perfect movie. In fact, the only reason it doesn't rate absolute faultlessness is because, like absolute zero, such an entertainment scoring would cause all competing movie molecules of amusement to cease functioning, thereby resulting in a cataclysmic breakdown in the inherent structure of cinema. As matter and time transpose and all other moviemaking takes on the density and depth of a giant black hole, everything we've come to understand about our Cineplex's diversionary dimension implodes at the subatomic level. Then all life ceases to exist. So there has to be a minor quibble, a reason to keep the entire filmic universe from crashing in on itself.

And, sadly, The Incredibles has that one incredibly minute mistake that prevents it from paralyzing the efforts of other filmmakers and their desire to forge new kinds of celluloid merriment. What is that single issue, you ask, that one solitary stutter in an otherwise splendiferous spectacle of animated magic? Well, that's easy, actually. Even at nearly two hours, this movie just feels too damn short! It's so amazing, it could—and should—go on forever.

A movie that breezes by this effortlessly, that finds all the right marks of narrative, invention, and characterization and hits them again and again and again with pristine prowess is a rare and refined pleasure, something more or less unknown to we mere mortals who siphon our paychecks into the local theater, hoping for a little rat race relief. Indeed, as Brad Bird's brilliant, flawlessly modulated script is pumping away like a bodybuilder about to win the Mr. Olympia competition, The Incredibles more than lives up to its name. As a matter of fact, it supersedes it and redefines the term by superhuman leaps and bounds.

This is the kind of film you could easily see yourself watching over and over again, or enjoying multiple times even in an eight hour director's cut with Sanskrit subtitles. More than just a sublime action film, a sly and clever comedy, or an interesting commentary on our current "no one is special" social order, it defies simple description as it reminds us of a million productions past. This is one film so in touch with what good old fashioned storytelling and vibrant visualization is, that it could earn a couple of PhDs and a Nobel Prize by virtue of its mere existence.

Bird brings a singular vision to the film, one that doesn't feel formed by committee or a conglomerate desire to pander to the entire population. This is not to say that Pixar is some shill for the shopping mall, but The Incredibles has a different texture than other releases from the studio. It's edgy and surreal, fully functioning within the pragmatic and yet trapped in a universe of endless, exciting possibilities. From the insurance company from hell where Mr. Incredible—now lowly Robert Parr—works, to the volcanic island hideout of his new arch nemesis, Syndrome, the look of The Incredibles world is absolutely stunning.

As with most of Pixar's product, it's no surprise then that it's the details that stand out: the forming five o'clock shadow on Bob's face as he comes in from a late night of "bowling" with buddy Lucius (AKA the superhero formerly known as Frozone); the micro-mini car the massive man drives to work; the '50s-meets-freehand look of the buildings and their furnishings; the Tinker Toy technology inherent in some of the sciences. This is retro as nutty nostalgia, the classic kitsch taken from the Eisenhower to Kennedy era filtered through secret agent gizmonics and peppered with a 21st century engineering ideal to basically fuse the last 60 years of technology into a single, sensational symphony of visual sci-fi sensation. Any generation can approach this film and see something familiar, from the World's Fair facets of the overall approach to the Star Wars universe of mechanical marvels.

From its consistently clever humor (many of the heroes and villains have names and abilities so priceless that they become fodder for some rewind and freeze-frame fun) to the wholly original approach to design and delivery, The Incredibles becomes a rich, dense treat, the kind of cinematic sundae one can overindulge in again and again until they are bound up in a completely satisfied filmic fetal state. And because it's such a jewel, a glorious gemstone to be savored and enjoyed by all, it does that one thing that film often forgets to do in their pursuit of a box office bonanza. It reminds us just how special the moviegoing experience can be. In no other arena can we laugh until our sides hurt, cry until are eyes swell shut, cheer as the hero vanquishes a foe, or scream as the monster makes his way toward another unsuspecting victim.

As a motion picture, The Incredibles reminds us of the magic that can be made with a salient idea, brilliantly executed and expertly delivered. It's hard to imagine Bird and the bitmap mavens of Pixar topping this terrific treat—but everyone said the same thing about his The Iron Giant and their Finding Nemo. It's frightening to think that, perhaps, neither entity has truly yet reached its pinnacle. But one thing is certain: The Incredibles does sit atop of the animation pyramid as one of the greatest offerings the art form can produce. It is a truly timeless, creative classic.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.


Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.


Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.


Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.


In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.


The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.


The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.


When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.


20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.


The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.


Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.