At one time Pixar was dedicated to only releasing original content, excluding the Toy Story and Cars franchises. One of the reasons being their large pile of stories to pull from and the fact that animation takes so long. They were able to coast off their wealth of ideas for years. While they continued coming up with new, original content; the inherent desire to revisit familiar territory is oftentimes a necessity. A studio can’t avoid sequels forever, and their almost guaranteed success allows them to invest in original projects.
It would have been nice to get The Incredibles 2 a lot sooner. It’s one of my favorite Pixar films, and when they ended it on a pseudo-cliffhanger, I really wanted to see the whole family back in action. Instead, we got Toy Story 3, Cars 2, Cars 3 and Finding Dory. Half that list was a worthwhile endeavor; but it makes you wonder, with the ever-increasing interest in superhero content at the cinema, why they decided to put off a sequel to The Incredibles until now? Would it take on the genre be as special among the bevy of riches we’ve now gotten from Marvel, Fox, DC, and Sony?
The leadership at Pixar and Walt Disney animation for that matter are determined to keep projects in the hands of their creators, so it makes sense that they waited for Brad Bird to be available. He made Pixar’s best film so far, in Ratatouille, and went on to make live-action films such as Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and Tomorrowland, but it’s been 14 years since we last saw the Parr family. Despite that huge gap in time, I had faith in the continuation of their story based on the track record of the creative team. Still with all this in mind, could Bird recapture the magic that made us fall in love with this family once more? More to the point, is this franchise still incredible?
In Incredibles 2, written and directed by Brad Bird, we find the Parr family taking out a criminal in broad daylight with delightful pizzazz. Not a moment has passed since we last saw them. Their teamwork is in semi-perfect harmony. With the current political climate toward superheroes so low, Bob (Craig T. Nelson) and Helen (Holly Hunter) decide this will be the last time they skirt the law to fight evildoers, as their family’s safety and well being have always been the priority. This was the plan until a wealthy businessman named Winston (Bob Odenkirk), and his sister, Evelyn (Catherine Keener), offer Bob, Helen, and Lucius (Samuel L. Jackson) the opportunity to change the public’s perception of superheroes. The end goal was to garner enough support to allow them, and all other superheroes, to serve freely and without fear of prosecution.
Winston and Evelyn believe the best chance at this mission succeeding is with Elastigirl. Helen Parr gets to patrol the city on her own, while Bob stays home and looks after the kids. Bob is determined to make this new arrangement work, but he will have his hands full with Dash (Huck Milner), Violet (Sarah Vowell), and Jack Jack (Eli Fucile). Jack Jack, in particular, is only now realizing the breadth of his powers, which yields some hilarious moments. Violet continues to struggle socially and romantically as a teenager with abilities and wishes she didn’t have to bounce back and forth between two realities.
Along with this chaotic path of parenting, Bob finds help in an old friend named Edna Mode (Brad Bird). Edna Mode was one of the highlights of the first film, and her brief presence in this movie practically tops her performance in the original. Bob is only tasked with keeping their home running smoothly, but Helen is trying to keep the entire city safe. The introduction of a new villain named Screenslaver lets Elastigirl shine as a savior of the citizenry. Even though I loved each of her amazing, heroic scenes, I know the real strength comes from this family being together to get things done.
I didn’t expect to love this movie as much as I did. I knew it would be great, but I couldn’t be certain. The attention to character is what stood out to me the most. There is a huge emphasis on the family dynamic in this film. It was emphasized in the first film, but the emotional depth of their everyday life is expanded upon here. You get more of the home life situations between Bob with the kids and Bob with Helen. I enjoyed all the scenes of Bob trying to be the perfect dad and coming up short. There is a lot more attention to Violet than Dash in this movie, but you remember Dash every time he’s on screen with his funny one-liners. Violet has a subplot with a boy from school, which provides scenes of funny conversation as well.
Jack Jack doesn’t get much love in the first Incredibles film, outside of that short with the babysitter. He was, after all, discovering he had powers, but in this movie, he is front and center. His presence is so wonderful and off-kilter. It’s not all the time, but occasionally with his scenes, it almost feels like you’re watching a Tom and Jerry cartoon adapted for a family superhero animated feature. I have yet to figure out how many powers Jack Jack has. He’s definitely the standout in this movie, and for good reason.
Michael Giacchino returns to score this movie and he provides some amazing additions to the music. The big band sounds he provides give this franchise a real James Bond atmosphere. He also knows how to get the most out of the intimate moments. Allowing the scenes to breathe and complimenting their emotional resonance.
I was hard-pressed to find any faults with this movie. Anything I found turned into nitpicking. I thought perhaps this movie might be too adult for kids, but it’s a family film and families have adults. You could say if the story balanced between focusing on fun superhero stuff for kids and intriguing, multi-faceted dialogue for adults, the first film was around 50/50. The sequel is more around 40/60, with the superhero storyline taking a less prominent position. I’m not saying there isn’t a ton of amazing, action sequences and superhero choreography. There is plenty of that. I particularly enjoyed the new superheroes that show up; and though they may not exhibit powers that we haven’t already seen on tv or in the theaters, Brad Bird’s style and the animators give them a wholly unique personality. Yet the focus of the film overall leans more toward the family and the drama that transpires as a result of their new situation.
Incredibles 2 is a worthy sequel that rivals it’s predecessor. I can definitely state without hesitation that it was worth the 14 year wait. This movie feels like the original, but carves its own path. It looks the same, but offers more of this world and from a different perspective. I am so glad most of the voice cast was able to return. I also really enjoyed Bob Odenkirk and Catherine Keener’s characters. Along with several other newcomers, their presence is a nod to the audience and their love of fandoms and geek culture in general. I’m glad they found a way to personify our appreciation into the story. I encourage anyone, no matter if your a kid or an adult, to seek out this movie on the largest screen possible. It will have you smiling and cheering throughout. When you name your movie, and the main superheroes, after an adjective of profound significance, you better hope they pull it off. Mission Accomplished.
About Incredibles 2
Synopsis: Bob Parr (Mr. Incredible) is left to care for Jack-Jack while Helen (Elastigirl) is out saving the world.
Director: Brad Bird
Writers: Brad Bird
Stars: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson, Sarah Vowell, Huck Milner, Catherine Keener, Bob Odenkirk
Runtime: 1 Hour, 58 Minutes