director Brad Bird
It was the first film that I ever took my son to see in the theater. He was not yet 3. It was probably not the best idea. I recall him finding a lot of it very intense (it is). He ultimately sat through the whole thing, a couple of bathroom trips, a few frightened, doubtful moments.
Of course, today he doesn’t remember that at all. He’s familiar with The Incredibles the way that anyone surrounded by pop culture and marketing would be. The images were more ubiquitous before the next several Pixar or Disney or other films filled the shelves and products lines all over everywhere. But even Clara, who hadn’t seen it, knew that the family all wore red suits together, even if she didn’t know anything else about it.
It was actually in discussing The Incredibles with the kids that I realized that they hadn’t seen it or didn’t remember seeing it. While for me, with perhaps Ratatouille (2007) as a possible contender, considered it the best of Pixar’s films to date. But even I hadn’t seen the film since 2004.
Directed by Brad Bird, who has an excellent filmography including The Iron Giant (1999), Ratatouille, The Incredibles, and most recently Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011), it really is the best film Pixar has made.
I’d forgotten how it starts with a rather elaborate opening sequence depicting a world in which superheroes are prevalent, though after one particularly impractical rescue, Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson), gets into a ton of litigation. In fact, it’s litigation that winds up dooming all superheroes to become regular schlubs, too dangerous are their forays in rescue. But Mr. Incredible marries Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) and they wind up with a family and a classic Americana suburb.
Only they are not happy. It’s mind-numbing being a regular joe, especially if you are no regular joe. The kids wind up with powers, too. The son can fun superfast and the daughter can turn invisible. The baby…well, we’ll just have to see.
Mr. Incredible is lured out to battles and rescues by a mysterious employer, jetting off to an obscure island with a sultry white-haired nymph.
But, you all probably know the story. I don’t need to spell it out.
The thing is that it’s not just a “family film”, kid-play. It’s actually quite a thrilling action film (which makes sense how Bird was able to transition to the Mission Impossible franchise so successfully. The character development and design are wonderful and clever and it’s a pretty whiz-bang kind of film, where at nearly 2 hours, you’re never once detached from the adventure.
Felix and Clara loved it. They expressed surprise that there hasn’t been a sequel. Truly.
Some of the oddball human characters and some of the animation has dated less-well. I’ve noted that before about digital animation, which is always pushing the technology to the most crystalline designs and depths, that eventually that technology becomes the norm for everything, is old. It looks like the cheaper, crummier stuff today. Most of The Incredibles‘ designs are sharp and lively and wonderful. I only note this now because it’s doubtlessly something that will continue to become more outstanding as time moves along. It’s not just aesthetics changing. It’s the capabilities of the technology.
It doesn’t detract from the excellence of the film overall. It’s not just design and characterization, but it’s good storytelling, great adventure, good humor, and lots of fun. I still think it’s the best Pixar has done.