They say, never meet your heroes, you may not like who you meet. Who says that is beside the point. What we see in front of the camera, in the public eye is a completely different person when the cameras are then turned off and the lightbulbs are burned out. But when that person is an actual superhero who fights crime, saves the day from villains, and has superhuman strength, idolizing comes with the territory. For Buddy Pine (voiced by Jason Lee) meeting Mr. Incredible (voiced by Craig T. Nelson) is all he wants other than to be his sidekick as the self-titled IncrediBoy. What Buddy along with the rest of us don’t see is the danger and destruction and harm being a superhero can cause. Buildings are blown up; trains go off the rails and in the opening moments of The Incredibles a person is saved from jumping off a building.
That person who jumped off a building didn’t ask to be saved, they wanted to end their life, causing more damage despite the preciousness of life being spared. Said person proceeds to take legal action against his superhuman savior which ends in heroes being outlawed, blending in with society and having their secret identities be their one and only. All the good a superhero can accomplish, the Brad Bird written and directed film poses the question, are they necessary.
After a period of 15 years passes by, the lead hero Mr. Incredible is domesticated – his real name is Bob Parr and he works in insurance, in a cubicle, in an office like the rest of us and is visibly miserable. The years haven’t been kind to Bob, he’s put on weight, lost his focus, and is constantly distracted by the mundane repetitive tasks us humans endure. At home, Bob is married to Helen Parr aka Elastigirl (voiced by Holly Hunter) and the two have 3 kids, Violet (voiced by Sarah Vowell), Dashiell or simply Dash (voiced by Spencer Fox) and Jack-Jack (voiced by Eli Fucile & Maeve Andrews).
A house, a loving family and a job that provides a roof over their heads – what more could Bob want? Along with Lucius Best aka Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) the two sneak out for “bowling night” to play superhero – saving people from a burning building or having the longing to stop a mugging. Bob has an inherit desperate need to save people, it’s who he is at the core of his development. If he isn’t saving the day, Bob doesn’t have a purpose in life.
You can see why a young Buddy Pine idolizes such a figure of Mr. Incredible. And you can also see the bitter disappointment of constantly being told to go home whenever Buddy shows up to a crime, eager to assist, thinking his knowledge of heroes and villains is going to save the day. A lot happens in those 15 years post outlawing heroes. What Mr. Incredible fails to realize in the moment is that he’s creating a supervillain – one that cannot match his strength or ability but can build it with technology.
Not only is the technology that Syndrome creates impressive but, the CGI in which The Incredibles along with previous Pixar films is brought to life with is equally if not more breathtaking. With every film that Pixar releases, the quality improves as do the stories themselves. Character designs look softer, and the environments are more immersive, coming to life around the characters that are front and center on screen. For the early 2000’s, the technology to create the water is groundbreaking, it reacts the way an ocean would, keeping with the flow and shape of crashing waves. Geared more toward an older audience, Brad Bird’s screenplay features heavy themes that a Toy Story isn’t meant for. Sure, the animation is visually pleasing, and the characters will snatch up the attention of a younger audience, but The Incredibles casts a wider net of appeal.
Looking at the voice cast, all do exceptional work at bringing a sincerity to their roles. Opposite that is Bird’s dialogue that gets stronger as the film progresses and more characters are introduced. Though a small ensemble, Bird gives plenty of time for each character to fully develop.
So far, every film Pixar has put out stands on the shoulders of the previous film. Improving on the animation, the stories are becoming more personal experiences – characters are relatable as the art imitates life. Seeing a family of five that just so happen to be super have everyday mundane struggles gives them a complexity that a live action counterpart has yet to match. We come for the witty humor, the gorgeous animation, relationships and most importantly the powers.
Elastigirl can stretch and shape-shift, turning herself into a parachute to slow down a decent or just stretch her arm while vacuuming. Violet can become invisible, creating force fields to stop bullets or other weapons. Dash is a speedster and Frozone can create layers of ice so long as there is water close by. The powers do dazzle when the Parr family is in mid fight with Syndrome’s technology but it’s the duality of the responsibility of using them in their secret identities that showcases the true strength of The Incredibles. Dash wanting to play sports, violet going invisible when a boy she likes looks at her.
With all the fascination surrounding the Parr family and their arch nemesis Syndrome, somehow the Brad Bird voiced Edna Mode steals the show right from underneath it all. Providing the best the humor has to offer and delivery, the eccentric designer is easily one of the best supporting roles Pixar has created.
Coming in at 115 minutes, The Incredibles balances all its elements perfectly, never looking overwhelmed or out of breath, only when Bob is stretching his old hobo costume back over his extra pounds. The beauty of a Pixar film besides the visuals and the technology in bringing these stories to life is the ability to relate to its audience. There is something for every age to admire but mostly, The Incredibles is the most adult to date – dealing with heavier themes that will go over a younger fans head. Paced exceptionally well, the Brad Bird written and directed film is on par with Finding Nemo and Toy Story 2 in the first 6 films. This studio doesn’t know the saying “a bad day at the office”. More than a delightful, animated film, but possibly one of, if not the best example of how a superhero film should be made.
Screenplay By: Brad Bird
Directed By: Brad Bird
Music By: Michael Giacchino
Cinematography: Andrew Jimenez, Patrick Lin & Janet Lucroy
Starring: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, Spencer Fox, Jason Lee, Samuel L. Jackson, Elizabeth Peña
Where to Watch: Disney Plus
Release Date: November 5, 2004
Running Time: 1 Hour 45 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%