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Normally I hand DVD reviews of movies I covered theatrically off to someone else. That way, you don’t just get a repeat of the same tired old opinion on the film from me. In this case though, when a shiny new copy of The Incredibles on DVD showed up at my doorstep, there was no way I was going to let go of it.
I’ve seen The Incredibles three times now, and it gets better every time. It’s not just a great animated movie, it’s a great movie. Easily the best animated movie ever made, it’s also one of the best superhero movies ever made, competing perhaps with Spider-Man, X2, and Spider-Man 2 for that top spot.
To recap, the world’s superheroes have been sued into unemployment. Forced to give up saving lives in the face of million and millions of dollars of court fees, the world’s superheroes have gone underground. For the past fifteen years they’ve been living mundane lives among us as insurance salesmen or homemakers. Most, like Mr. Incredible aren’t happy.
Mr. Incredible, now Bob Parr is a family man. Two kids and an ex-superhero wife named Helen he goes every day to a thankless job working for a soulless corporation. Every night he comes home to screaming kids and a loving, but taxed wife. His life feels incomplete. His only source of joy is rehashing the glory days with former superhero friend Frozone. They sit in Frozone’s car listening to the police scanner. Disapproving wife Helen thinks they go bowling.
Then things change. Bob gets a mysterious message calling him back to action. Eager to return to helping people, he secretly leaps back into hero work without questioning who he’s working for, landing himself in perilous trouble. Helen discovers his absence and suspecting infidelity goes after him. Their two super-powered kids stow away.
The Incredibles connects with the audience by contrasting the fantastic with the mundane, a idea I’m stealing straight from the mouth of creator/writer/director/voice actor Brad Bird. You’ll fall in love with this family, as if they were real people. This isn’t a movie limited by the constraints of animation. It feels as authentic and relatable as any live action film, perhaps moreso considering it contains characters who can turn invisible and bench press locomotives.
Most impressive are the deeper themes the film works in around the edges. At one point, bemoaning the state of the world Mr. Incredible angrily declares, “They keep finding new ways to celebrate mediocrity!” Indeed, exploring what it is that makes people special and unique is a big part of what makes the movie tick. The film’s villain Syndrome is driven to evil by a simple and sincere desire to be special himself. His plot? To make everyone in the world super, “because when everyone’s super, no one is.” It’s a battle not just for survival, but of clashing ideologies with Incredible standing for successful individualism and Syndrome championing the cause of “every kid a winner”. In a world with no winners, you’re left with nothing but losers.
This is a spectacular Collector’s Edition release, a rarity in that it actually deserves the CE name. It’s loaded with great extras and special features, but the first thing that struck me was how glorious the sound is on this disc. Perhaps that’s no surprise from a movie nominated for several sound related Academy Awards, but it’s really on wondrous display here in this disc. Even on my humble, Sony surround sound system in a box it blasts into the room with uncommon crisp, clarion quality. This is the kind of movie it’s worth buying some sort of surround sound for. It’s the kind of movie tech-nerds will be using to show off their Home Theater systems with for years to come. You’ll love just listening to it.
Once you’re done listening and watching though, you’ve got hours of insightful, unforgettable entertainment still waiting for you. The Collector’s Edition is a 2-disc set, so of course disc one contains things like the actual movie, scene selection, and two commentary tracks, one by the driven Brad Bird and producer John Walker, and another by some of the film’s animators. Actually, this is the first time I can remember ever seeing an animator track before. Usually they go for a track featuring the film’s big name voice talent. It’s not often the animators get a chance to talk about their work like this, give Pixar credit for a stand up idea.
Disc 2 is absolutely loaded with hours of featurettes and shorts, each worth a long loving look. That’s where you’ll find the fun loving short “Boundin”, which played in front of the theatrical showing of The Incredibles. You’ll also find the much advertised short “Jack-Jack Attack” in which we discover what the youngest Incredible was up to while his family was away saving the world. I hope they left the babysitter a nice tip.
If I go through everything on this disc, I’ll lose your attention somewhere around word 3500. So just know that after the shorts, there’s hours and hours of documentaries, making ofs, information, production art, and just about everything you could ever want to know about Brad Bird and The Incredibles… even an Iron Giant reference or two. It’s wonderful (note how I avoided using the world “incredible). The weirdest inclusion is “Vowellet” an essay by vocal talent Sarah Vowell (voice of Violet). I’m not sure how to describe this one, just watch it and decide for yourself if you enjoy it.
This is a perfect release. Whatever the problems between Disney and Pixar, together they really know how to treat Incredibles fans right. Unlike most Disney releases, this one isn’t dumbing itself down to cater to little kids. You won’t find this disc overstocked with annoying, useless, and often defective DVD games that no one, not even the kids their geared to actually cares about. This is a release for serious film fans. Disney is taking this movie seriously as the classic it is destined to be. This is a DVD release, like the movie, that’ll stand the test of time.
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