At the Regal Cinemas “Incredibles 2” showing I attended (and it’s likely playing everywhere), right before the film began, writer/director Brad Bird, and stars Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter and Samuel L. Jackson appeared on screen and thanked all the fans for waiting patiently for the past 14 years (it’s been 13 and a half, but let’s round up – why not?) for this sequel. Jackson proclaimed, “Finally! Here it is!”
This heartfelt intro really set the tone for the movie. Since the release of the original, we’ve been flooded with silver screen superhero sagas. Think about it: “The Incredibles” opened seven months before “Batman Begins”, which launched Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, and more than three years before the creation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Over this time we’ve experienced a lot of superhero films that have felt… superficial. We’ve seen “flashiness” of the reality of life that comes with this commanding, demanding and unique occupation.
But it’s the return of the Parr Family that brings this genre back down to Earth. “Incredibles 2” picks-up EXACTLY where the original left off, with Bob and Helen Parr (aka Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl), their kids, Dash, Violet and baby Jack-Jack, and friend Lucius (aka Frozone) battling… THE UNDERMINER, who is reeking havoc on their metropolis.
Right from the start it’s clear that this is not a traditional Pixar movie (at least since the first “Incredibles”). This is an incredibly (my one and only use of that pun) sophisticated movie in both tone and style. On the surface, it’s a story about Helen getting the opportunity to go solo out in the field in an effort to take down bad guys (and gals) as part of a marketing campaign to “Make Superheroes Legal Again”. This leaves Bob at home with the kids – helping Dash with his homework, Violet with her boy troubles, and discovering (as the rest of us did at the end of “The Incredibles”) that Jack-Jack has quite the superpowers of his own.
The set-up is a bit slow. Bird takes his time, allowing us to re-establish our relationship with these characters at a mild pace (even though there are a few impressive action scenes in the first act). As the complex script unravels, we’re presented with some interesting material – and some of the most challenging and mature topics that have ever been addressed in a Pixar movie. To which I say – “Bravo”.
The now 25 – 30 year olds who grew-up with “The Incredibles” are ready for a follow-up of this caliber. Considering the success of the original, once Bird decided to step back into the pressure-filled halls of Pixar, the studio heads likely just said to him, “Make the movie you want to make.” And he has.
Like the original, “Incredibles 2” has a very old-fashioned feel with its cars, sets and images. But it also has a vibrant, modern look and is packed with contemporary themes and social commentary, from female empowerment, to the obtrusiveness of tech and the influence (or, potentially, lack thereof) of the political system.
Accompanying all of this are slick action sequences and a rousing, dynamic score from returning composer Michael Giacchino. And Bird didn’t forget that the humor of family life is what made the original film so relatable and unique. Scenes involving domesticated Bob and the blossoming Jack-Jack range from cute to laugh-out-loud funny. And an appearance by everyone’s favorite fashion designer Edna Mode is the comedic highlight of the entire movie.
As “Incredibles 2” builds and builds to its show-stopping climax, my heart actually began to race a little. Maybe it had something to do with the music. Or maybe it’s because, for the past decade and a half (now I’m guilty of rounding up), I’ve watched these characters over and over again – to the point where they’ve, sort of, become family. And it’s at the point when you consider animated characters to be “family” when you know a franchise has done its job. You just want the Parrs to succeed, and you’re not ashamed to feel really “super” when they do.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “Incredibles 2” gets an A-.
Running Time: 118 min.