One of the best movies of the last decade has finally made its way on to Blu-ray disc: Disney /Pixar's "The Incredibles." It's hard to believe that this Oscar-winning animated feature took as long as it did to finally see a high-definition format release, but the wait was worth it. If you haven't seen the movie -- or perhaps haven't seen it in a while -- Blu-ray is the ideal way to watch this story of a super-powered family that learns that they are infinitely stronger together than they are apart. First and foremost, the movie remains outstanding: written and directed by Brad Bird, "The Incredibles" is a fast-paced, action-packed adventure yarn, but its secret weapon is how much heart is lurking in between scenes of saving the world from an evil genius named Syndrome (played with geeky gusto by Jason Lee).
The proof of the movie's effectiveness for me is that my favorite scene in the entire movie is not a physical confrontation between heroes and villain, but a verbal one between the past-his-prime Mr. Incredible (effectively voiced by Craig T. Nelson), now living his life as mild-mannered insurance claims adjuster Bob Parr, and his wife Helen (portrayed by Holly Hunter), who was once known as Elastigirl. One night, after sneaking away with old crimefighting comrade Frozone (played by Samuel L. Jackson in a funny, understated role) to recapture the glory of his youth by rescuing people trapped in a burning building -- and inadvertently appearing to be robbing a neighboring jewelry store -- he successfully evades capture by the police, but once home, he's stopped in the living room by his wide-awake and none-too-thrilled spouse.
There they lay bare a conflict that has likely been brewing between them for some time: Bob's frustration at not being allowed to be who he used to be, versus Helen's wish that her husband concentrate on the life they are living, not the one they used to live. Every time I watch that scene, I'm struck at what a surprisingly tense and realistic argument is portrayed here in what many people would think of as a "children's film." To my mind, it's the kind of scene that's fairly uncommon in movies, even live-action ones -- two adults, arguing like adults.
But this is a movie full of moments like that, even when it comes to the couple's kids. Violet (played by Sarah Vowell) is a painfully shy teenage girl who sees her powers of invisibility as more of a problem than a blessing. Mischievous middle child Dash (portrayed by Spencer Fox) wants to show off his speed, which leads to him drifting into trouble at school. And then there's burbling baby Jack-Jack, whose only power seems to be his disarming cuteness. When Violet says to her mother during dinner that she doesn't want to act normal, she actually wants to be normal, or when Dash complains about not being allowed to participate in sports because of his abilities, you find yourself empathizing with them. And when the movie kicks into high gear, all of the characters stay involving and interesting instead of being buried or forgotten in the machinations of the plot -- yet the action doesn't suffer one iota. Indeed, this is a template for how a top-flight superhero movie ought to be made - and I don't think anyone has improved on it yet.
The movie looks and sounds great on Blu-ray, of course, but there's a wealth of bonus features to explore on the new set. My personal favorite is a fascinating roundtable discussion featuring Bird and the key members of his team, all of whom share stories about the making of the film. There's a lot of interesting anecdotes here, particularly one about an unnamed Disney executive who didn't believe that "The Incredibles" was going to work as an animated feature and spent time lecturing Bird (a veteran animation director whose credits include the early years of "The Simpsons" and the critically-acclaimed feature "The Iron Giant") about all the things that could and couldn't be done in animation. (Smartly, Bird didn't get into a fight over this; instead, he let old friend and new boss John Lasseter -- director of the first two "Toy Story" movies and the ostensible face of Pixar - lead the battle on that front. And not surprisingly, the executive did eventually change his tune.)
Other special features include a pair of audio commentaries for the feature, two animated short films (both with commentary tracks as well), plus a wealth of additional bonus material from the original DVD release and some new material created just for the Blu-ray release. Additionally, you receive a separate DVD with the movie and selected bonus material in the set (just in case you have yet to upgrade to a Blu-ray player in some rooms of the house), as well as a digital copy disc of the film that allows you to transfer the movie to your computer or portable device.