I’ve mentioned on this blog I have only recently gotten into the superhero movie genre. For years they were too explosion heavy and stupid without any interesting characters. With Avengers started a new trend (at least for me) of charismatic actors playing likable characters with interesting stories. Each year it seems they get stronger till last year we had 3 excellent entries with X-men Days of Future Past, Captain America: Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy. Each of these movies were puzzles with entertaining characters and good stories.
During the superhero dry spell there were 2 movies that poked through the dreck Spiderman 2 and The Incredibles. Hercules was actually Disney’s first attempt at making a comic book movie but Pixar’s The Incredibles was their first true superhero movie. But like any good genre movie The Incredibles rises above it to be great on so many levels.
I think every movie fan has certain touchpoints in movies that when they are there it is almost always a win. Some of mine are flying, the ocean, true love, musicals, work, and feeling uncomfortable in your own skin. The last two are particularly prevalent in The Incredibles but perhaps not messages people first think of. But I know for me The Incredibles is great because it is a movie about work and coming to terms with your own story. It’s also a great movie about family and the power of a strong marriage.
Like any good movie about work The Incredibles starts out showing Bob and Helen Parr’s potential to do great things- to be super. But through a brilliant opening montage we learn they must hide their abilities and attempt to live a normal life. For Helen this means be a housewife to her 3 children which she can tolerate enough. However, for Bob it means working in what I call ‘cubicle hell’ in a job selling insurance policies.
This is not who Bob is. Other people could be perfectly happy selling insurance but he is miserable because he was made for better things. I know how that feels. I’ve been in that cubicle knowing I could do more, be more, and it is the worst feeling ever. Sure bad things happen all the time but it is a different kind of awful to be stuck permanently with an unhappy mediocre life.
Bob’s boss is this tiny little shrill man which makes for the greater contrast with Bob and their interactions are very funny. He wants to do something good with his life. He wants to tell the story he’s supposed to tell. It’s the same reason I love The Little Mermaid. Ariel isn’t happy because she isn’t being the person she knows she is supposed to be. I really believe it is an important part of human existence to find out what you are supposed to give the world and then do it. And I’ve been in the Ariel/Bob spot where I knew I didn’t belong and had to make a change.
I also relate to Dash Parr, Bob and Helen’s youngest son who has the gift of being super fast. He wants to use his gift but he can’t. He is told to not express that. He makes the brilliant point “when everyone is special, nobody is”. (You all can see why I like Frozen so much right…same message of a child told to hide their gifts). I can remember as a little girl feeling like I couldn’t share my heart very well. I told my family in one argument “I’m the weird one here but at school I’m the normal one”. Just like Ariel and Dash didn’t quite belong. I think a lot of people can relate to that feeling.
But then Bob (Mr Incredible voiced by Craig T Nelson) gets the opportunity to start using his skills again. And what happens? He is happy. He gets in shape. He smiles more. He and his wife (Elastigirl voiced by Helen Hunt) don’t argue as much. He’s telling the right story so he is in a good place. He’s doing the work he was made to do. He even gets a new flashy supersuit from the hilarious fashionista Edna (director Brad Bird).
Unfortunately it isn’t as simple as he at first hopes. It turns out a young boy who was bothering him during the glory days has grown bitter and wants to enact revenge on all superheroes especially his former idol Mr Incredible. He wants to be the hero but with his own inventions not the help of super powers. He is a very chilling, scary villain, partly because he knows all the villain cliches. At one point he says ‘you got me monologuing!”
Eventually the entire family becomes involved in fighting Syndrome and it is in the last third the movie becomes more of a standard superhero movie but still entertaining. Both Violette and Dash are instrumental in saving the day and using their powers along with the Parr friend Frozone (Samuel L Jackson). I love when Helen tells the kids “Your identity is your most valuable possession”. That’s a main message of the film.
I love the sense of family and camaraderie with the Parrs and it is so fun to see each family member blossom in their own unique ways. Most Disney films are about people meeting and falling in love. Incredibles is one of the only one’s I can think of about how important marriage is. It shows a couple fighting, getting along, and working together. Violette at one point says ” Mom and Dad’s lives could be in jeopardy or worse- their marriage”. I love that!
Like in Finding Nemo there is some terrific dialogue in between the action- along with some real moments of heart. I love when Bob rants about graduation. It reminds me of when President Obama wanted to outlaw 8th grade graduation- the one item we probably agree on most!
Helen: I can’t believe you don’t want to go to your own son’s graduation!
Bob: It’s not a graduation. He is moving from the fourth grade to the fifth grade.
Helen: It’s a ceremony!
Bob: It’s psychotic! People keep coming up with new ways to celebrate mediocrity, but if someone is genuinely exceptional…
Ha! That cracks me up every time!
There’s a lot of witty dialogue like that and that keeps it from feeling too predictable or stale. Edna especially gets a lot of the great laughs.
Syndrome might be a little scary for small children (I’m so bad at gauging that). Some of the work and marriage drama might be a bit over their heads but it is surrounded by the kids who I think children will really relate too. They will enjoy the action and the story is simple enough for them to understand.
The Incredibles is a movie you can watch with your entire family because it is about a family. They are dysfunctional at times and quarrel but so does every family. In the end they all want what is best for each other . They all want their family to be safe and happy. the movie is the journey that gets them a little closer to that goal.
I love it. And like I said if you piece it apart it is one of the best movies about work I’ve seen.
Overall Grade- A+
So Incredibles 2 is the next project for Brad Bird. Are we excited? I am!
28 thoughts on “Pixar Review 15: The Incredibles”
Yeah, the quote about identity is exactly the one which I picked when I honoured Helen, too. It’s odd, the first time I watched this movie I thought it was great but I didn’t necessarily feel that it was Pixar’s best. But it withstood times so well. If someone would ask me today, I would say that The Incredibles is my favourite Pixar movies. It just works on every level.
I had the same experience. It was only fairly recently it occurred to me the work-related themes and now that’s probably my favorite aspect of the film. I think it is good for kids to see a marriage and family with the struggles and even fights. You never get that in an animated movie because usually the kids are orphans. It makes it very unique.
I can totally see this being #1. I could make arguments myself for it being there. Oddly enough I probably relate to it the most out of the Pixars (strange for a movie about superheroes but it’s true). Up will always be my favorite because it makes me think of my grandpa but I have about an 8 car pile-up for the #2 spot.
What I love about Pixar is how hard they work on the scripts. Doing these reviews so much great witty dialogue has stuck out. They are a delight and like I said rich in getting something new on each rewatch.
Perhaps because it is the only Pixar movie which offers a collection of interesting female characters.
That is probably why I relate to it the most. I should have made more of a point of that in the review because between Violette, Helen and Edna that’s a lot of variety of female characters. I love how Edna gives Helen the talking too about being Elastigirl and going after her man! She’s more than just comic relief.
This is one of 5 Pixar movies that pass the Bechdel test: the other 4 being A Bug’s Life, Cars, Toy Story 3, and Brave.
Hurray! And different kinds of women too without being a women power movie. Love that.
This is a really wonderful movie. You make a good point about Bob being stuck in a job that keeps him from his potential – I’ve been there too. Plus I love the family dynamic that’s heartfelt, authentic and funny – like that bit when they’re on their way to stop Syndrome (“Are we there yet?” “We’ll get there when we get there!!”)
Isn’t the worst being stuck in that kind of job and at least for me frustrating because everyone could think you are sitting pretty when inside you are miserable.
Those moments of humor are the best! It’s like Brad Bird absorbed from Joss Whedon when he was at Pixar.
I love this movie!
I always enjoy this movie when I watch it but I just don’t love it for some reason. I can’t really pick out any flaws that make me feel that way, just my general reaction. But I do love the characters and many of the messages it teaches, like you mentioned. I totally get why people would pick it as one of their favorites of Pixar’s, it’s just not mine.
I certainly have had that response to some movies so I know what you mean.
Awesome review! I’d say that the only thing that i believe makes it slightly better than say Finding Nemo is probably that his film has maybe a little more action and what not. Still, I think both are equally great for the most part. I need to go back and rewatch this one soon. Anyway, awesome and keep up the good work.
I forgot to mention Incredibles was the first movie I saw when I came home from my 20 month mission for my church. It was a great reintroduction to the world of movies! 🙂
Agreed! Really, the first movie that you saw following your mission trip, eh? So did you see say Finding Nemo before, or after this film?
Before. Nemo came out May 2003 and I left in August. So it is August 2003 to April 2005 I was out on media and I havent caught up on most from that time
One of my proudest accomplishments in life is watching almost every Pixar movie in the theater during initial release. The only exceptions during my lifetime are A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2, and this film.
And I’ve always regretted that I didn’t see this one then. I knew that it was in theaters, though, and I got the junior novelization because I was interested in it. (I remember walking around my step-grandparents’ house, trying to entertain my sister by reading the first few chapters of the novelization, in fact. She tuned me out completely, naturally.) I think the only reason I didn’t see it was because I wasn’t interested in superhero movies much – I didn’t like violence and I didn’t like action movies. Some of my earliest memories are of how much I was wary of the Jackie Chan movies my older brother loved watching on VHS with his friends and acting out stunts by climbing all over the vacuum cleaner. My word back then for why I didn’t like them was “stunts”. Not violence, not action, I didn’t like “stunts”.
But my father was quick to buy me the DVD when I came out, which actually annoyed me at first. But as soon as I watched it, I loved it! I felt challenged by it, in fact. So much of the subject matter and even the dialogue seemed so tailored for adults it was like I was just being allowed to peep in, but I still loved the writing, mostly because I could barely make heads or tails out of dialogue like this:
“You’re not affiliated with me!”
“You caught me monologuing!”
“You want me to intervene? Okay, I’m intervening, I’m intervening!”
“We’ve frozen all of Syndrome’s assets. If he even sneezes, we’ll be there with a hanky and a pair of handcuffs.”
“Look, I called his bluff, sweetheart, that’s all. I knew he wouldn’t have it in him to actually…” “Next time you gamble, bet *your own* life.”
I especially liked how they didn’t try and explain much about Bob’s job in insurance to children who likely wouldn’t understand. I didn’t understand much what the conflict was between Bob and his boss, but I could tell he was breaking the rules and I just loved being bewildered by how their exchanges were practically written in code:
“You authorized payment on the Walker policy?” “Somebody broke into their house, Mr. Huph. Their policy clearly covers them against…” “I don’t care about their coverage, Bob! Don’t tell me about their coverage! Tell me how you’re keeping Insuricare in the black! Tell me how that’s *possible* with you writing checks to every Harry Hardluck and Sally Sobstory that gives you a phone call!”
“We’re supposed to help our people, starting with our stockholders! Who’s helping them out, HUH?” (When he said “The law requires that I answer no,” I knew I wasn’t supposed to like him, though.)
I watched it over and over again, invigorated and eyes glued to the screen every time. Even my aunt, who complained constantly about violence in media, liked it, and when I pointed out this seeming contradiction, she simply admitted there were many shows and media from her childhood that were more violent than she remembered as she looked back on them.
At this point, Pixar could do anything with any premise: Superhero movies were, in retrospect, terrible in 2004, but Pixar milked them for all that they had, and Big Hero 6 didn’t come close to beating it. As far as I’m concerned, no animated film ever will. End of story.
This is one of my favorite of your comments. I like when you share stories from your life in your comments. Those are some great quotes. I also like the way they don’t feel a need to dumb things down for kids. I think little kids get the job sucks and the adults can enjoy the lines and think about their own terrible jobs. I certainly related to it.
I’m so glad you enjoy The Incredibles. I think it is brilliant
This and ‘The Iron Giant’ are Brad Bird’s two magnum opuses; its really, really hard to decide which one I prefer as they both have a pulpy sci-fi/comic book feel to them, have well rounded heroes, superb writing and great action all around. ‘The Incredibles’ does a superb job of celebrating and deconstructing superhero tropes and motifs, but never to the point of satire and ultimately revels in it’s own genre.
At the time, I had only seen the teaser trailer and went in expecting a flighty, comedic and silly affair a bit like the Adam West Batman, but what I got not only took me off guard but it left me on the edge of my seat – I felt that this film was being smart and was challenging me to think while I was watching, never sure what direction it was going to take. Syndrome is an especially chilling villain because he’s not only a little closer to our own age compared to Mr Incredible, but also because he’s probably a Super just like Bob, except his power has manifested in super-intelligence. In some ways, Syndrome is like Robin if he went rogue and learned all of Batman’s gadgetry, strategic planning and tricks but for the purpose of killing Batman himself. For some reason, that comparison remained stuck in my head and always unnerved me.
Still, it’s that extra bit of edge that works wonders for ‘The Incredibles’ and without being too crass or unwieldy, the film makes for a particularly dark, mature and intelligent addition to Pixar. My only gripe is that I think it would have been cool to see what the film would have looked like in 2D animation as Bird originally intended, but that is ultimately tangential as the film is still just as home in 3D as it would have been in 2D.
Agree with everything you said although I’m not sure about the 2D being better. I’m so used to it the way it is I cant imagine it any other way. I love it’s take on marriage and how real it is
I love the film as well, but I do wonder what it would have been like of things had gone down a very different route – think the look and feel of Iron Giant but with this story attached. But that’s just conjecture on a relatively minor point of mine, it’s impossible to improve upon a masterpiece.
It is interesting to think about and speculate. But I agree masterpiece. Thanks for the awesome comments