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The Incredibles (2004): Pixar Film Review

Brad Bird’s The Incredibles is both a fun superhero movie and a surprisingly tragic tale about how society deals with those who want to break convention. 

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with superheroes. As a young kid, for better or for worse, they served as my role models. I used to spend hours upon hours sitting in front of the TV, watching superhero cartoons, desperately wishing that it was me swinging from building to building. Surely, my young, naive mind thought, life would be so much easier if you could just slap on a mask, squeeze into some spandex, and fight some ridiculous, animal-themed villains. As an adult, my perspective changed, the infatuation has transformed into fascination. No superhero story has been more affected by this shift for me than The Incredibles. What I used to once view as a simple family comedy, I now see for what it really is – a complex, thought-provoking look at what it truly means to live.

The Incredibles follows Bob (Craig T. Nelson) and Helen Parr (Holly Hunter), two ex-superheroes who live their lives pretending to be ordinary due to a government mandate. However, when Bob is tempted back into action, the two, plus their three superpowered children, find themselves up against the dangerous supervillain Syndrome (Jason Lee). On the surface, The Incredibles is a relatively standard superhero story, although it does have more in common with Watchmen (2009) than most modern-day Marvel films. In its world, superheroes aren’t idolised; instead, they’re demonised, seen as weapons of mass destruction who do more harm than good. They’re trapped in the shadows, forced to hide among those who hate them and become a shell of themselves. 

It’s obvious from the offset how these restrictions affect our central characters. From the very first second we see him in the present day, Bob is miserable. He’s sat in a white shirt, in the dullest office imaginable, working a mundane job that he hates every second of. It’s a far cry from what his life used to be, where he would jump out of windows for the sake of it and stop burglars for fun. His son, Dash (Spencer Fox), blessed with super speed, isn’t allowed to partake in the sports he so desperately wants to compete in simply because he would naturally outshine everyone else. The Incredibles is fundamentally about a group of people who are forced to hide their talents in order to fit in with a society that has rejected them.

loud and clear reviews the incredibles pixar film movie
The Incredibles (Pixar)

That sentiment may seem pretentious to a lot of people, but it’s one I can definitely understand. There’s definitely still a stigma around pursuing slightly more “unconventional” career paths, for instance, anything creative, or anything sports-centric. Society typically demands that you throw those ambitions away in favour of something more “safe”, something more “stable”. The dead-end office job gets glorified and portrayed as the ideal endpoint because it’s secure and conventional. Anyone can do it, it can give you a good life, and so, everyone should do it. It’s an idea that makes sense on paper, but in execution, humans are far more complicated and ambitious than that. A lot of people don’t just want to pursue the safe option, they want to do whatever interests them, no matter the risk.

In The Incredibles, people with extraordinary abilities are forced to live their lives pretending to be mediocre, stuck to the conventional path. It’s an extreme way of portraying this problem that still exists in our culture, but it’s a powerful way. As we watch Bob get gradually sucked back into the superhero lifestyle, we root for him, because we inherently want him to pursue his dreams, to break free of the system that has restricted him for so long, regardless of the risk. It’s a fascinating idea to explore in an animated movie targeted at kids, but the script is so well-written and the characters are so well-realised that it ends up being brilliantly done. 

There are plenty of other things to love The Incredibles for as well. Its script is consistently hilarious, its action scenes are constantly exciting and its pacing is superb from start to finish. Edna Mode (Brad Bird) might just be the funniest character to emerge from any Pixar film, let alone this one, and her exchanges with both Bob and Helen make for some of the film’s most memorable scenes. Everything a superhero film should do right, The Incredibles absolutely nails. The one major thing going against it is that its animation is unfortunately incredibly outdated, but that’s simply just a product of it releasing almost 20 years ago and not in the slightest a fault of the spectacular team behind this masterpiece. 

It should be made mandatory that before someone makes a superhero film, they watch The Incredibles. It’s easily one of Pixar’s greatest works, managing to be both an entertaining, action-packed joyride, as well as a genuinely mature, surprisingly dark adult drama that examines the restrictions our society places on some of its most unique people. The characters are iconic, the writing is phenomenal, and Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile and Maeve Andrews) is absolutely adorable. Superhero films rarely get better than this.

The Incredibles is now available to watch on Disney Plus.

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