Friday, September 3, 2010

Day Sixty-Three: The Incredibles

Ranking on IMDb Top 250: #183
Year: 2004
Director: Brad Bird
Starring: Craig T. Nelson and Holly Hunter

I thought I was going to be writing about this movie three days ago, but apparently Netflix has a tough time shipping DVDs fifty miles south all of a sudden, and it arrived two days later than anticipated. Hopefully this won't happen again. I'll admit that I probably won't give this movie a fair shake in this blog post, either, because my mind is still lingering on the other movie I saw today: Robert Rodriguez's new splatter flick Machete, which anyone who likes to have fun should see immediately. Regardless, I'll try to be fair to one of Pixar's relatively unsung films, The Incredibles. While it should have theoretically spawned the most merchandising of any of their movies – kids love superheroes, after all – its impact has all but disappeared today, whereas it's hard to go a day without seeing a kid in a goddamn Lightning McQueen shirt from Cars, Pixar's worst movie by far. Even if that seems a little cosmically unfair, six years after its release, The Incredibles (somewhat unsurprisingly) doesn't hold up nearly as well as one would think. With Pixar spending most of its post-2004 output proving that it can tell emotionally complex stories (again, excluding Cars), and with the market becoming so saturated with superhero movies that Marvel Studios seriously just picked up an Iron Fist script (I love comics, but, uh, really?), the fast-paced, action-heavy formula just doesn't have the charm that it did when the movie first hit theaters.

I think what sets The Incredibles apart from (most of) the rest of Pixar's filmography is the fact that it isn't just an animated movie; it's a kid movie, and there's almost no debating that. Some of that comes from the subject matter of superheroes, but as Christopher Nolan among others has shown us, it mostly comes from the execution. The Incredibles boasts brightly-colored animation, fast-moving scenes, family-friendly comedy, and not much else. With no scenes like Peter O'Toole's monologue on criticism in Ratatouille, the opening montage in Up, or the painful giveaway of Andy's toys at the end of Toy Story 3 to bring an emotional level to the movie, it gets away with being a two-hour episode of a cartoon show. An excellent one, no doubt, but one nonetheless. There's simply not a lot of meat on the admittedly flashy bones.

But The Incredibles isn't a bad movie. It just lacks a lot of what Pixar has spoiled us into expecting from them. We're used to Pixar characters whose greatest enemies are within them – Woody's jealousy, Carl's grief, WALL-E's duty – whereas Mr. Incredible and his family just fight a giant robot for the better part of an hour. But some movies are just two hours of fun and don't have to make any apologies for not being more emotionally powerful – I mentioned that I saw and loved Machete earlier today, didn't I? If The Incredibles was supposed to mark Pixar's venture into check-your-brain-at-the-door popcorn filmmaking, it's one of the finest animated entries in that particular canon of all time. But is it a great film? That's gonna be a tougher sell.

The Good: It's an excellent "comic book movie," and it doesn't even come from a comic book. The writers and animators really captured the genre without technically working in it.

The Bad: It really feels like some depth is missing that could be there. The "we used to be superheroes and now we're not but we still get the itch sometimes" plot device is not exactly introspective.

The Skinny: I wouldn't put it on the list.


  1. Oh Brad. Brad Brad Brad. While I probably wouldn't put it on the top 250 list either, I still love this movie a lot.

    I would argue that it is Pixar's learning curve in establishing the deep characters you cite. The hints at what Pixar could do are there, from the beginning montage establishing the characters, and then changing to their assumed suburban identities. Pixar just doesn't develop them quite enough. Instead, they leave the characters to relate to a broad audience as a man going through his mid-life crisis with his family trying to cope.

  2. It is a midlife crisis movie, but aside from the tights, that's been done to death, and better. I like The Incredibles. I really do. But on rewatching it last night, I thought I'd have liked it a lot more. It lost a lot of its charm because in the back of my mind I'm thinking of how much better they would become, and how much better superhero movies can be. It has moments of greatness - I agree that the opening montage is brilliant - but on the whole, it underwhelmed me the second time around.

  3. Goddamn it Brad. And we were doing so good too.
    Really? There was not one thing in this film that made you think it wasn't for adults too?
    Do you really think that kids care about a man who just sits in his office and becomes bored with his life?
    Need I mention the suicide attempt at the beginning?
    The fact that the two little children are inches from death as well as a baby?
    Syndrome's death? REALLY? KID'S CARTOON SHOWS DO THAT???
    I'm just saying this movie is fantastic. And it's better than any of the shit that Marvel has put out. Obviously, in terms of quality, DC has got the dibs (Dark Knight... yea...) But The Incredibles is a close CLOSE second.
    I hope it gets a sequel. I watched it with my friends the other day and it holds up just fine.

  4. i hope Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away are soon to come. now that's some animation! :)

  5. Holy shit, Andrew, I did not know anyone was that passionate about The Incredibles haha. I still think it's overwhelmingly kiddy, the scenes you mention notwithstanding. It's more in the execution than strictly the content. I dunno, I just don't love it. And to say it's better than everything Marvel has ever done? Christ, watch Iron Man and X2 again. :-p

    Sejla, Spirited Away is coming fairly soon. Princess Mononoke, I'm not sure when.

  6. wait... you've NEVER seen a MIYAZAKI FILM?!
    Ok I have to PAUSE!!!!!!
    And by the way I did love X2, but I am not a huge Iron Man fan (the first one was ehhh but the sequel was garbage)
    The best movie Marvel has released is Spiderman 2 and even that did not come close to the 10/10 that is the Incredibles.
    Seriously, I might be Pixar's biggest fanboy. And your lack of Miyazaki makes me want to cry XD
    Princess Mononoke is the best animated film ever made. Followed closely by Graveyard of the Fireflies (both are on top 250)
    Seriously... urgh...
    Brad, if I knew you in real life you would be strapped up Clockwork Orange style watching every single Studio Ghibli film.
    Animation is my favorite medium of film so I am naturally defensive...

  7. I'm totally with Andrew on the Iron Man thing (I think it's too long...I fell asleep during it actually) but Brad, if you don't have amazing things to say about Spirited Away after you see it...well, we may not speak in real life for awhile. Just sayin'.

  8. HAHA, hey, it's not some kind of prejudice against the guy that's kept me from seeing Miyazaki films, it just hasn't happened yet!