When The Incredibles first made their way to the big screen in 2004, I really enjoyed it, as I do all Pixar movies, but I didn’t seem to appreciate it the same way I did films like Toy Story and Finding Nemo. I’m not sure what it was, but there was something about it that didn’t quite click. Over the years, though, after several repeat viewings, the film has grown on me more, and I can appreciate what writer/director Brad Bird was able to accomplish. Fourteen years later, Bird returns with Incredibles 2, the long-awaited sequel to his superhero love song. Can it live up to what many fans of the original have been clamoring for? Or has the magic worn off due to the length of time it took to finally get this film off the ground? In many ways, it may be a little of both.
As the trailer suggests, Incredibles 2 picks up right where the last film left off, with the Parr family suiting up to battle a new foe, the Underminer (voice of Pixar mainstay John Ratzenberger). It feels a little like what happened at the end of the original Back to the Future, where Doc returns to take Marty to the future and save his kids. It wasn’t supposed to be a setup for a sequel, it was just a fun tag to leave you wanting more. But, much like the Back to the Future series, Bird does a great job of using that tag to setup the next chapter as if it had always been planned that way.
Bird does the right thing by refraining from jumping ahead in time after the battle ends. Instead, he uses that battle as a catalyst to introduce us to Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk), a billionaire tech mogul who, along with his sister Evelyn (Catherine Keener), is looking to make all supers legal again. His plan is to change the perception people have of the supers from being a bane on society to being the protectors they wish to be. Bird includes a light touch of our current political climate, but he’s wise to keep it subtle so it doesn’t overwhelm the story or turn away viewers who just want to be entertained.
Winston’s choice to help change people’s perceptions is Helen Parr/Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), who compared with her husband Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) and Lucious Best/Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson), has the least amount of destruction on her resume. Bob isn’t too keen on the idea, as he feels he should be the one going out fighting crime, but at the same time he wants to support his wife. If Winston thinks she’ll be the fire to make supers leagal again, in the long run, that’s just what needs to happen, even if that means becoming a stay-at-home dad.
With this new job comes a new home, rescuing the Parr’s from having to stay in a small hotel room after their house was destroyed by Syndrome. And while Helen heads out to battle a new foe calling himself the Screenslaver (Bill Wise), Bob must help Dash (Huck Milner) with his homework, make amends with Violet (Sarah Vowell) after accidentally having the mind of her potential boyfriend wiped to the point he doesn’t even remember who she is, and entertain Jack-Jack, who he discovers has his own set of abilities he’s starting to really tap into.
The role reversal of having Helen fight crime while Bob stays home to care for the kids is a good one, as it teaches Bob a valuable lesson that you don’t have to be a superhero to be a hero in someone’s eyes. But it also once again breaks the family apart while keeping the kids from the battle for the majority of the movie. On the surface, splitting up a successful team, especially after we’ve seen how well they work together, can be a detriment to our viewing pleasure. After all, we’re there to see the Incredibles kick butt as a family. But when splitting up a team helps serve the greater narrative of the story, as Bird does very successfully here, it not only strengthens the forward momentum of the plot, but it helps each of the characters grow even more than they could have had they been kept together for the entirety of the film. We all want to keep our loved ones safe, but when push comes to shove, we have to let them be who they are and let them fly.
Bird also introduces us to several new supers in the film, who each have a minor role to play in some way, even though the majority of them fall a little flat. However, there is one super, Voyd (Sophia Bush), who rises to the occasion and earns her spot as being a super I wouldn’t mind joining the team in Incredibles 3. The super that stands out the most, though, is Jack-Jack, who plays a much more substantial role than he did in the first film. Some of the best moments come by way of Jack-Jack, including a very fun fight with a raccoon that’s trying to steal the Parr’s trash. It’s the trigger that opens Bob’s eyes to his abilities and gets him to reach out to Edna Mode (Bird) for help in figuring out how to control them.
Though the ultimate reveal of the villain is a bit cliche and predictable, and the story beats follow a similar path as the first film, Bird keeps us invested in these characters with a great eye for perfectly placed humor in a fun, light and breezy pace, and allowing for these characters to continue to grow and change and become not only better people, but better superheroes in the process.
My Grade: A
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Next week, new movies include Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and Boundaries. If you would like to see a review for one of these, or any other film out next week, please respond in the comments below.