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Featured Blu-ray Review: The Incredibles

April 11th, 2011

The Incredibles - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon

For the first several years, every Pixar release earned more worldwide than the Pixar release that proceeded it. That streak ended with The Incredibles. Granted, it was in the unenviable position of following Finding Nemo and its $867 million worldwide haul, is nothing to be ashamed off. Close to seven years after it was released, does it stand up? Or has the recent glut of Super Heroes movies make it feel dated?

The Movie

The film starts with some old newsreel footage of Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl, and Frozone being interviewed about their jobs as Super Heroes and how they see their future. That future doesn't turn out quite the way they imagine.

During the rescue of a suicidal man, Mr. Incredible stumbles onto a plot by Bomb Voyage. He manages to defeat him, despite the help of IncrediBoy, his number one fan. Because of the interference of the young boy, the amount of collateral damage was extreme and as a result of this, and the personal injury lawsuits, the government shut down all super heroes and forced them into the Superhero Relocation Program. At least Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl made it to their wedding on time, so the day wasn't completely terrible.

Fifteen years later, the pair are still married and have three kids, two of whom have super powers of their own. Family life isn't exactly great for Mr. Incredible, a.k.a., Bob Parr, as he isn't really adjusting to civilian life very well. He hates his job, he hates hiding his powers and desperately wants his old life back. Meanwhile, Dash, his son, is also tired of hiding his super powers (he can run faster than the human eye can see). Violet is an outcast at school, something that manifests in her ability to turn invisible. With Bob pining for the old life, it's up to Helen to be the active parent and this has caused a bit of strife in the marriage. It gets worse when Bob and Frozone nearly get caught being supers on the down low.

After a particularly bad day at work ends with him nearly killing his boss, he gets a message from a mysterious woman named Mirage. She works for a secret government agency and she needs his help. Not Bob Parr's help, but Mr. Incredible's help. An experimental robot has gone wild on a remote island and they need him to to go in and stop it... and try not to break it, because it cost a lot of money. An epic battle ensues. The outcome is not just victory, and a healthy paycheck, but a renewed optimism and energy. So when Mirage calls him again saying she has another mission for him, he jumps at the chance. But that's when he encounters my greatest nemesis... The Unacceptable Spoiler!

(If I had any artistic ability, I would create a super villain named The Unacceptable Spoiler. Alas, I was born without the ability to draw.)

The first thing I noticed when I watched this movie is how much the technology has improved over the years. I've had the fortunate pleasure of reviewing both Toy Story and Toy Story 3 on Blu-ray recently and it's amazing how much digital animation has improved. The Incredibles was considered groundbreaking when it came out. This was due in large part to the director, Brad Bird, who came from a 2D background. Certain things that are very easy to animate in traditional animation are nearly impossible with computers; getting long hair to move in a realistic manner, for instance. (The opposite is also true. Particle effects are incredibly time-consuming in cell animation, as are transparencies, moving perspectives, etc.) Because he didn't know this, he asked a lot of his animators, but it pays off. Sure, there are some scenes where the animation looks a little dated and the level of detail is not the same as it would be if the film were made today, but it is still awesome looking.

That's the technical side of things, but how is the story? It's a whole lot darker that almost all Pixar films have been. (It was their first to earn a PG rating.) The film has a real sense of danger to go along with the mid-life crisis story and it works just as well for adults as it does for children. This shouldn't surprise most people, as Pixar excels at making movies for adults that kids can also enjoy, as opposed to most cartoons that are aimed at kids with the hope that their parents can tolerate them. Even with that track record, The Incredibles is on the dark side of things. This does make it stand out as far more mature than the average cartoon, and since it doesn't rely on pop culture references, it has aged very well. It's just as effective today as it was the first day I saw it.

It truly deserves the Oscar it won for Best Animated Feature.

The Extras

Extras on the first disc include two audio commentary tracks, the first with Brad Bird and John Walker, who are the writer / director and producer respectively. The second is with two groups of animators, recorded separately and cut together. Both are worth listening two, but both were on the original DVD. The same is true of the two short films associated with the movie. Boundin', which was shown with the movie in theaters, and Jack-Jack Attack, which acts as an epilogue for the film. New to the Blu-ray is a Picture-in-Picture track for Jack-Jack Attack and a 22-minute retrospective. I would have loved to have had a Picture-in-Picture track for the feature, but at least there are a couple exclusives on disc one.

Over on disc two we have the rest of the old extras ported over, mostly in the exact same form. The Easter Eggs are found in one section so you don't have to hunt for them, while the deleted / extended / alternative scenes are now in High Definition. Extras that are new to Blu-ray include a 6-minute featurette with a number of storyboard artists talking about their job, how to get into the business, etc. Studio Stories: Gary's Birthday is a short animated behind-the-scenes story, the likes of which have become standard for Pixar Blu-rays. There is another short featurette on the creation of the end credits. And the final new featurette is an interactive tour of New Nomanisan Island.

The Blu-ray also comes with the DVD and a Digital Copy of the movie.

Moving onto the technical presentation, it is in a word, flawless. The Incredibles on Blu-ray is reference level material. The colors are amazing, every detail from the film is clearly shown, contrast, black levels, etc. There's no complaint over the film's video. Meanwhile, the audio track gives your surround sound speakers, as well as your bass, a real workout. It's immersive with lots of dynamic effects. The Oscar winning sound editing is in full display here.

Finally we get to the price. Right now on the price is $30, which is a bit high for a catalog release. However, this is not your typical catalog release, and it is certainly not shovelware. It's a Special Edition release that deserves that label, even if the words "Special Edition" are not found on the Blu-ray cover. Even if you already have the movie on DVD, it is worth the upgrade.

The Verdict

Simply put, the Blu-ray release for The Incredibles is a must own. It's clearly Pick of the Week material.

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Filed under: Video Review, The Incredibles