Ranking on IMDb Top 250: #183
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.