This week on Movies Worth Rewatching we’re talking about Brad Bird’s insanely fun superhero homage, The Incredibles (2004, Pixar Animation Studios).
Back in 2004, Pixar Animation Studios could do no wrong. All five of Pixar’s previous movies had been well recieved by fans and critics alike and were financially successful to boot. Pixar developed all of their feature length animated films internally, leveraging the passionate and talented group of animators and storytellers that make up their very successful company. The Incredibles, written and directed by Brad Bird, would be the first time that a Pixar “outsider” would be allowed to helm the story and direction of one of their animated features.
In the months leading up to the release of The Incredibles, my friends and I were brimming with anticipation for the film’s release. We were already familiar with Brad Bird from his animated feature length directorial debut, The Iron Giant, and knew to be excited about what his involvement with a company like Pixar could produce. In the final weeks leading up to the release of The Incredibles, one of my good friends, and fellow Brad Bird fan, took seriously ill, leaving him bed ridden. He had a benign cyst growing near the base of his spine which needed to be lanced, drained and packed with gauze until it eventually healed (sorry, TMI), a process which left him in substantial discomfort throughout the day and sadly meant he wouldn’t be joining us opening night for the film. The weeks passed and finally, the midnight showing of The Incredibles was upon us. Despite my excitement for seeing the film, my thoughts were still with my friend and his absence. I remember as we took our seats in the theater, commenting on how my friend should be there only to look up and see my good friend standing before me, with a donut shaped cushion in tote. A benign cyst couldn’t stop him from seeing The Incredibles opening night! How awesome is that!!! I still think about that night every time I watch The Incredibles, and I’m thankful to say that the film lives up to the story.
So, how does it hold up eight years, and two more benign cysts later? (oh, so sad, and true)
The Incredibles is out-frickin-standing! I really do love this movie more and more each time I watch it, which is a lot. Brad Bird really out did himself, creating a sophomore film that truly outshines its predecessor (no disrespect to The Iron Giant, just being honest here). Mixing together a deep rooted love for heroes and their place in society with a great mid-life redemption story, Brad Bird pushed the Pixar standard even higher with some really incredible storytelling. Adding depth and retro-cool to every scene, Michael Giacchino’s phenomenal score for the film blew my mind the first time I heard it. Having only primarily worked on video game scores prior to this film, Giacchino has gone on to make a serious name for himself in Hollywood, and his first major film score still holds up today after hundreds of listens. The voice cast does an outstanding job bringing relatable life and feelings to their characters, which is no easy task for a voice actor. I have to give special mention to the “Coach” himself, Craig T. Nelson, as Mr. Incredible and Jason Lee as the film’s surprisingly dark villain Syndrome. Brad Bird even manages to get a voice credit with his insane portrayal of Edna Mode, seamstress to the hero elite. Bird’s performance is still hard to believe even now, eight years after the film’s release. There’s a whole lot of good packed into this film and multiple viewing are highly recommended in order to try and pick up on everything Bird layers into the movie.
My absolute favorite part of The Incredibles would have to be its heartfelt story of Bob Parr, Mr. Incredible’s alter-ego. A lot of effort has been put into “humanizing” superheroes over their many years in the pop-culture spotlight, but very few of those stories have come as close to obtaining that goal as The Incredibles does. Over the course of the film we watch as Mr. Incredible goes from being a self-assured superhero to a lost 30-something working a desk job and then back to the top of life again. None of Mr. Incredible’s adventures or feats would mean a thing if they weren’t grounded by his well fleshed out desire to fulfill his civic duty; as well as, his journey to become the man worthy of his loving wife and family. Ramping up to the film’s exciting final conflict, Mr. Incredible realizes in a moment of clarity that the greatest thing he could ever do or be is a father to his children and a husband to his wife. “You are my greatest adventure, and I almost missed it.” Mr. Incredible is as real as a superhero can get; inspiring, vulnerable, passionate and courageous. Watch him closely as you’re enjoying the film, his expressions tell the story and amplify this film well beyond the ho-hum of modern superherodom. As a lover of superheroes and the comics that spawned them, the father sentiment gimmick is one I’ve come to recognize and resent over time. Trust that there’s no gimmick to Mr. Incredible’s journey, just a heartfelt story of growth and the ultimate realization of where you belong and who you’re supposed to be.
One thing I noticed while rewatching The Incredibles for this column is that Mr. Incredible never manages to punch Syndrome despite their tension and multiple conflicts. This could not stand, therefore I drew it into existence. I’m sure I’m failing to get the ultimate point by even thinking about this kind of physical expression, but I can live with that. Despite my mediocre cartooning skills, the punch is still rather satisfying, and available on my blog in further detail.
If you haven’t met The Incredibles yet, I highly recommend you pay them a visit. It’s well worth your time and money. Brad Bird has since become a regular part of the Pixar family, working as part of the Senior Creative Team behind Up and Toy Story 3. My good friend and I have now both experienced the “joy” of a benign cyst in pretty near the same region of our bodies. Having experienced it for myself I can’t imagine how he managed to sit all the way through The Incredibles without crying out in pain (I actually missed the opening night viewing of Star Wars: Episode III during my recuperation). I suppose that’s just a testament to how truly enjoyable The Incredibles is and how badass my friends are. The Incredibles is available on Disney Blu-ray and DVD and is one of the best films from the best animation studio of the past 30 years. Please, check it out for yourself.
by Mel Dale