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"The Incredibles": Truth In Advertising

by on November 8, 2004

A “blockbuster,” in my opinion, is a movie that delivers an incredible ride but also doesn’t mince on the characters or story. It’s not going to make you really think, but it is pure entertainment – often the best of what films offer. And The Incredibles is the best blockbuster movie since The Empire Strikes Back.

Again, if you missed it:

The Incredibles is the best blockbuster movie since The Empire Strikes Back.

In my mind, that immediately places the film in the top 1% of all films ever made. And it isn’t hard to see why—this isn’t your typical animated film. Characters don’t break out in song at the slightest provocation. There aren’t any fuzzy monsters, cute characters, or out-of-place pop culture references. The stakes are real here; characters can die. There is violence. The bad guys are truly bad, not the type of fanciful, over-the-top villainy often seen in American animated pictures.

Much has been said of the underlying messages, like in other Pixar movies (most of them portray the message of “it’s good to be yourself” or somewhere around there). But this movie doesn’t focus on that like the other Pixar films. The magic and the warmth of Finding Nemo and a lot of the other Pixar movies are severely downplayed—this film compares more favorably to the great action blockbusters of yesteryear.

The flick also has superhero action sequences that really can take the audience’s breath out of their lungs. Better yet, it doesn’t sacrifice the humanity found in recent comic book pictures like X-Men. The film is light in tone, but in a good way (like the first Superman movie), instead of collapsing into the total campiness of the utterly terrible (and terribly overrated) Spider-Man 2.

So yeah, it’s good.

Basic premise, for everyone who doesn’t know it: Bob Parr was once the superhero Mr. Incredible, but after the populace gets litigious and starts suing the heroes all over the place, he, his wife Helen (Elastigirl), and his kids Dash and Violet are forced to become “ordinary” people. Bob hates it, so when he gets a chance to become Mr. Incredible again for a series of secret missions, he wastes no time taking it on. Of course, he then uncovers a secret plot that threatens all he knows and loves…

What’s amazing is that the Pixar guys really get it. They know the key to an animated film is not celebrity voices, nor is it product placement or pop culture references. The film achieves that special Batman: The Animated Series quality of timelessness. Elements from our current society are mixed in with a general retro look, topped off with a fantastic score. It’s that score which is one of the best parts of the film, actually. It does what the best movie scores do—give the film a personality.

It’s equally amazing that the Disney marketers don’t get it. Instead of marketing it as a fun family film, or a great superhero film, all of their marketing is seemingly concentrated on the premise of “fat man trying to fight crime.” And it’s a shame, since the movie really doesn’t dwell on that as much as the marketing leads you to believe.

Brad Bird, already a legend for The Iron Giant, now ranks up there with John Lasseter as a feature animation visionary. And, thankfully, many more people are seeing this movie than saw Bird’s last film. It’s wonderful what can happen when you’re allied with a studio that understands the medium.

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