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Beauty and the Beast

Diamond edition adds to a top-notch film —Andrea Birgers (DVD review...)

Beauty and the Beast fall for each other

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The Incredibles, winner of the 2005 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, is now available on DVD in an incredibly packed 2-disc set.

The Litigious Society of Mediocrity

Mr. Incredible moves the furniture
Mr. Incredible moves the furniture
Dash and Violet get better with each viewing
Dash and Violet get better with each viewing

Times are tough and cynical in Metroville and it’s hard for a super hero to get credit where credit is due. That’s the world faced by Mr. Incredible, the super alter ego of citizen Bob Parr (Craig T. Nelson, Poltergeist), an oversized man of action who winds up on the wrong side of a law suit after a man whose life he saved sues him. After all, Mr. Incredible didn’t save the suicidal man’s life, he ruined his death. With that, a spate of lawsuits puts the kibosh on the hero business.

And so it is, 15 years later, we find Bob Parr married to Helen, formerly the incredible Elastigirl (Holly Hunter, O Brother Where Art Thou?). Together, living under the protection of the super hero relocation program, they have a nice house in suburbia, three children, and Bob drives a beater to a suffocating office job in the insurance industry.

At work, Bob gets to share cube space with one of the building’s concrete pillars and denizens of corporate America will find the drab gray cube farm and pale, artificial lighting all too familiar. It’s a dreary job Bob sucks at because he’s too pure and concerned about his customers’ well-being to look after the company’s “shareholder value.”

Thankfully, though, Bob soon finds himself at the center of an incredible adventure that ultimately requires the incredible help of his incredible family.

No Capes, Daahling!

The storyline of The Incredibles is too good to be written off as just the stuff of a children’s movie. Following the tradition of sophisticated humor and whimsy found in other digital marvels like Pixar’s own Toy Story movies and Dreamworks’ Shrek flicks, The Incredibles is the kind of animated fare that’s great for adults and kids alike.

What sets The Incredibles apart and makes it, well, incredible, is its sweetly sugar-coated criticism of America’s suburbs today. Ignore it if you prefer, but The Incredibles makes a marvelous commentary on how children are raised today (all the more juicy considering The Incredibles is distributed by that bastion of all things kid-friendly, Disney).

Sure, Bob’s a loving father, but he would rather be out stopping criminals in their tracks than going to some artificial ceremony honoring his son Dash’s graduation from 4th to 5th grade. Bob cynically refers to it as “new ways of celebrating mediocrity.”

Oh. And the villain of the piece is the dastardly Syndrome (Jason Lee, Almost Famous), who hunts down and knocks off heroes in hiding as part of a nefarious plot to create havoc and set himself up as the next super hero. Some might say that reeks of current events.

Set the current affairs subtext aside and what’s left is a lot of fun. Michael Giacchino, who has created scores for video games and the TV series Alias, provides a horn-heavy score of such brassy bravura it’s more Bond than James Bond.

There’s also plenty of pure super hero shtick, including over-the-top villains such as the incendiary French evil-doer, Bomb Voyage, and colorful supporting characters like that munchkin fashion designer to the super hero stars, Edna “E” Mode.

The Incredibles is an ambitious production with such painful attention to detail that it is actually more rewarding with repeated viewings, a genuine bonus for owners of the DVD.

DVD Extras

This DVD is a classic. The supplemental materials are superb, the rare kind that actually expand on the movie’s universe. Matching the more sophisticated sensibilities of the feature film, this DVD contains none of the humdrum DVD games that have become a staple of children’s DVDs. In this case, the DVD supplements will probably bring more pleasure to the adults in the family than the kids.

Disc One features two running commentaries, one by writer/director Brad Bird and producer John Walker, the other by 13 of the animators.

Bird and Walker’s commentary was recorded prior to the movie’s theatrical release, creating a time capsule of their unbridled enthusiasm, regardless of the film’s financial fortunes. While Bird’s penchant to continually name the animators while also apologizing for not naming every single animator grows a little tiresome (this is, after all, a running commentary, not an Oscar acceptance speech), his enthusiasm and insight make up for the occasional lulls into congratulatory chatter.

The second track, with the baker’s dozen of animators, is a hodgepodge of input that ranges from overly technical gobbledy-gook to the humorous to the astutely observant.

Both tracks offer good nuggets about the behind the scenes efforts, providing insight into the limitations of computer-generated animation (yes, there still are some) even as they also talk movie shop with references to the deep focus technique of Citizen Kane as well as the tricks used to create the flat, claustrophobic effects generated for Bob’s corporate life. They also let it slip that Harrison Ford and George Clooney both auditioned for the role of Bob Parr, but Craig T. Nelson was the man Bird had in mind all along.

DVD Extras, Disc Two

On Disc Two, the elegantly simple menus reflect the same look and feel of Syndrome’s Project Kronos computer system.

The funniest supplement on Disc Two is a “long lost” animated short, Mr. Incredible and Pals, done in the cheesy, sparsely animated style of the old Hanna-Barbera Justice League of America cartoons. As an added treat, Mr. Incredible and Frozone provide a biting, hilarious commentary track.

Adding to The Incredibles mystique are the highly entertaining top secret files from the NSA (National Supers Agency). On board are the profiles of 21 supers, detailing their powers and personality traits. Included are very well done audio clips of interviews with the individual supers that are finely detailed, right down to the background noise of crowds or radio static. It’s the animated equivalent of cinema verité.

Jack-Jack Attack is an all-new animated short that recounts Kari the babysitter’s adventures tending to Jack-Jack while the parental units were away on adventure. It’s nicely done, complete with the same sense of humor as its feature-length counterpart.

Also on hand are six deleted scenes, mainly in the form of animated storyboards. The 34-minute bundle includes introductions to the scenes, highlighted by an alternate opening that isn’t anywhere near as good as the one in the final cut. Sometimes it’s amazing how polished and smooth the final product is compared to the original ideas.

More DVD Extras

More than an hour’s worth of behind-the-scenes footage is split between segments appropriately titled Making of The Incredibles and More Making of The Incredibles. They are worthwhile viewing that oddly provide the feeling that working at Pixar is not for everybody; it’s something akin to working in a giant pressure cooker, one in which fun and games are only two small ingredients in the stew.

The segment entitled Vowellet: An Essay by Sarah Vowell is an amusing look at the young lady who provides the voice for Violet. Vowell does not have any super powers, as she herself admits. However, she is just as quirky as any animated character.

Also on board is an art gallery of production sketches, including character, costume, and set designs. There are also three trailers, which are worth checking out for the footage created specifically for the previews. Incredi-Blunders offers a short collection of digital bloopers, odd computer-generated gaffs that are worth watching once… and only once.

Boundin’, the animated short that accompanied The Incredibles’ theatrical release, rounds out the primary extra features. In addition to the short, there is a segment on its creator, Bud Luckey, as well as a commentary track by Luckey himself.

Disc Two offers English audio as well as dubbing in Spanish and French; subtitles in English, Spanish, and French are also available.

There are also at least one Easter egg on Disc One and a nest full on Disc Two. A clue for finding those on Disc Two: wait for the omnidroids.

Picture and Sound

The widescreen (2.39:1 (yes, 2.39:1)) 16x9 enhanced presentation is THX certified and superb, one that also bears the DDD (all digital) designation, reflecting The Incredibles’ digital roots transferring directly to DVD.

Unlike past Pixar releases, the film is presented only in widescreen (a full-screen edition is available separately). The excellent Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround EX soundtrack is available in English, French, and Spanish. The surround sound is full and rich, including some nice details from the rear channels.

Also included are English, French, and Spanish Subtitles. Closed Captioning is not available.