Brad Bird, writer/director of the original 2004 Pixar classic, ‘The Incredibles’, has returned to his creation, picking up directly after the events of the first film, furthering the trials and tribulations of a family of superheroes. As with many sequels, ‘Incredibles 2′ is bigger, funnier, more action-packed, and more detailed in its animation technology, but in some aspects it’s derivative and repetitive of what came before. In hindsight, topping the first film, an ode to classic action films like the Bond movies, but which also played with superhero tropes well before they were so ingrained in the public psyche like they are today, was probably an impossible task, but there is so much fun to be had with this sequel that it can sit comfortably next to its predecessor even if it doesn’t surpass it.
As mentioned above, I2 opens with the family of supers’ efforts to thwart the machinations of the Underminer, a direct riff on the Mole Man from the Fantastic Four comics (it’s been widely accepted that The Incredibles are the best representation of the Fantastic Four on screen despite the fact that there have been three beleaguered movies made about Marvel’s first family). Since costumed heroes are still outlawed, the Parrs are arrested (Samuel L. Jackson’s Frozone wisely runs in the opposite direction of 1960s authorities), but given one last respite and released to a motel (their home was destroyed in the final battle with Syndrome). Left destitute and desperate, Helen/Elastigirl (Holly Hunter continuing her stellar voice work as the true center of these movies) resigns to going out into the workforce. Just when things seem their bleakest, she is consigned by a wealthy businessman and his sister (Bob Odenkirk and Catherine Keener being Odenkirk and Keener) to help turn the tide of public opinion, and in a reversal of the first film, participating in guided heroic missions with her husband sidelined.
It is this flip of roles that both provides the frame of the plot and the movie’s best gags, but also gives the film a sensation of distracting sequel-itis. Instead of sneaking around, covertly doing good deeds, Craig T. Nelson’s Bob/Mr. Incredible is a stay-at-home dad while Helen is front and center in the public eye, doing the impossible tasks he longs for. The scenes of a hapless, civilian Mr. Incredible dealing with his moody teenage daughter Violet (Sarah Vowell back at it), hyper-active son Dash (Huck Milner filling in for the grown Spencer Fox), and emerging multi-powered baby Jack-Jack (who steals the movie) are rendered wonderfully, heartfelt, and funnier than anything in the original movie. Simultaneously, the scenes of Elastigirl’s feats are some of the most intricate and masterful action sequences of any superhero movie, let alone compared to the first film. As a standalone, I2 is an amazing feat of animated wizardry, an edge-of-your seat adventure that will have audiences rolling in the aisles over Jack-Jack’s antics. As a sequel, it does suffer a bit from thematic retread, but luckily not enough to deter from a thoroughly enjoyable experience . . .
Written & Directed By: Brad Bird
Running Time: 118 min.
* * * 1/2 (out of 4 stars) -OR- B+