Pixar's 'The Incredibles' is the coolest, if not the best film commentary on middle-aged life, of settling into a comfort zone that feels horribly routine and drearily mechanical. And best of all, the computer-generated film presents the idea as a larger-than-life allegory with superheroes. Writer and director Brad Bird pumps up the animation world with an intelligence and substance not often seen in family-friendly fare. Disguised as an action-packed, relax-in-your-seat popcorn treat, the movie comes with a wonderfully engaging story about a very different kind of mid-life crisis. But the experience and the yearning for more are universally felt as we enjoy the amusing adventures of one family with superhuman powers.
Five years earlier, Bird gave audiences another smart animated feature with the surprisingly heart-warming 'The Iron Giant,' which took place in 1950s Cold War America. 'The Incredibles' is set in a kitschy, retro metropolis that feels like a mix of vaguely familiar comic-book stereotypes. These elements are put to great use as the movie opens with a burst of youthful, vibrant colors and a wild, zestful energy. Taking a cue from the 'Watchmen' mythology, masked avengers are forced into early retirement after various unasked-for rescues lead to several ungrateful lawsuits, which all coincide with the secret marriage ceremony of two popular superheroes. Suddenly, the picture changes to bleak and lifeless with a dull gray overtone, obviously signifying a vastly different state of being.
Bob Parr (Craig T. Nelson), who was once the immensely-admired Mr. Incredible, is having difficulty adjusting to his new life. Despite having fifteen years to make the ordinariness of suburbia work for him and his family, the strain of monotony is finally weighing him down. The filmmakers do an excellent job in showing these everyday pressures closing in on the big lug. He barely fits in his cubicle at work, and squeezes into a tiny car on his drive home, where he's greeted by family stress — typical sibling rivalry with certain superhuman benefits. His only escape is hanging out with fellow ex-super Lucius/Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson), listening to the police radio and reliving the glory of their old crime-fighting days.
The entire narrative structure is nicely handled and well thought-out, as these weekly underhanded escapades to fight crime only create more tension in his marriage. While Helen (Holly Hunter), the former Elastigirl, seems to cope better with the change, Bob's dissatisfaction is showing more with each day. His mid-life crisis is hilariously shown in a montage after he demonstrates he hasn't lost the talent to destroy giant evil robots. Well, he ends up requiring a quick chiropractic adjustment, but still . . . Once again, the brighter, colorful palette reflects his sudden enthusiasm for life, one which urges him to lose a few pounds by working out at a train yard and prompts the purchase of a new sports car.
But as one would expect from a movie with superheroes, the excitement is short-lived when it turns out the killer machines are part of an evil master plot by a nerdy fanboy villain calling himself Syndrome (Jason Lee). This is fairly dark subject matter for an animated picture, but Bird handles the material like a champ since it's all part of Bob's journey to discovering life's greatest adventure can be found at home. Filled with rip-roaring, blockbuster action, Pixar's 'The Incredibles' is a rousing good time with a gratifying story. It's also the first in the studio's canon to feature an all-human cast of characters that remains just as thrilling and rewarding today as it did when it originally premiered.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment and Pixar Studios bring 'The Incredibles' to Blu-ray as a Four-Disc Combo Pack, housed in multi-tray blue keepcase with a shiny cardboard slipcover. The first two discs are Region Free, but one is a BD50 with the main feature and animated shorts while the second is a BD25 with all the special features. The last two are a bonus DVD and Digital Copy of the film.
When placed in a Blu-ray player, owners can enjoy trailers for 'Cars 2' and 'The Lion King.' Afterwards, we find a menu screen that looks like a high-tech computer with the standard selection of options, the movie's musical score and full-motion clips.
By now, it's a surefire bet that any Pixar title released on Blu-ray will look fantastic, and the much-anticipated 'Incredibles' is a solid gamble that pays dividends.
The AVC-encoded transfer is a dazzling extravaganza of sights and a resplendent assortment of brilliant colors. Primaries are rendered with vividly rich saturation, leaping off the screen with energy. Softer pastel and earthy hues also possess a boldness which gives the CG animation a life all its own. Contrast is right on the money and perfectly balanced with crisp, clean whites, giving the picture plenty of pop. Luxuriant, inky black levels are consistent from beginning to end with spotless gradations between lighter and darker portions.
The entire presentation arrives with a lovely cinematic appeal and breathtakingly three-dimensional realism. The transfer throughout is razor-sharp and highly detailed, revealing every tiny nuance and peculiarity of the background as we as in the foreground. Being the first Pixar movie to feature an all-human cast, the studio wizards did a tremendous job in creating these small, trivial details, and the high-def picture fully displays them as something to admire and appreciate. The fine lines and textures in hair, furniture, and jungle foliage are distinct and striking. The threading of clothing and the minor blemishes on random objects are clearly visible and precisely-defined. Aside from some barely perceptible but easily forgivable banding in one or two scenes, 'The Incredibles' truly is incredible on Blu-ray.
As if the video weren't enough, the beloved Pixar film also arrives with a DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack that is pure reference, through and through. Nearly every scene is demo quality, making this a strong contender for the best audio presentation of the year.
The listening area is enveloped with tons of activity in the rears, creating a continuous 360-degree soundfield that's simply marvelous. Whether we're in the offices of the insurance company where Bob works, or deep in the jungles of Syndrome's remote island, viewers are immersed in the clear, discrete sounds of ringing phones or the wild cries of exotic birds. Pans and movement between channels are flawless, especially during the very-cool battle scenes. Dynamics are expansive and far-reaching, defining the highs and mids with perfect crystal clarity. Low frequency effects provide action sequences with an earth-shattering and persuasive intensity while vocals remain perfectly balanced and intelligible amid the thunderous chaos.
All in all, 'The Incredibles' offers an exhilarating and highly engaging audio experience on Blu-ray, sure to go toe-to-toe with any Hollywood blockbuster.
The entire collection of previous supplements is ported over for this new release.
The first CG animated film to feature an all-human cast, Pixar's 'The Incredibles' is a terrific look at the humdrum of suburban middle-aged life. The story comes with a wonderfully memorable cast of characters and tons of explosive action that will knock your socks off, making this a unique and highly entertaining family flick with smarts. The Blu-ray boasts remarkable, demo-quality video and audio, and an extensive collection of bonus material. If ever a movie's title was fitting as a description of the overall package, this is most definitely it. This Blu-ray truly is incredible. A must own release for sure!