OnScreen Review: "The Incredibles 2"

Ken Jones

  • Chief Film Critic

There are fewer bankable guarantees in film than Pixar productions. Their track record speaks for itself, the Cars franchise notwithstanding (Hey, nobody bats 1.000). It’s hard to believe that it’s been 14 years since The Incredibles came out in 2004. With all of the Pixar films I have enjoyed, The Incredibles remains firmly in my Top 5 for Pixar (In order: Wall-E, Inside Out, Monsters Inc, The Incredibles, and Up.). The Incredibles 2 is the 20th feature film release from Pixar and it more than measures up to the stature of the original.

Surprisingly, the film opens where the first movie ends, with the Parr family, Bob/Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson), Helen/Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), Violet (Sarah Vowell), and Dash (Huck Milner), fighting The Underminer while also taking care of Jack-Jack, the infant in the family. This leads to a fantastic jaunt through the city where each family member gets an opportunity to showcase their abilities. This pursuit of The Underminer turns out to be a double-edged sword: it proves to be the last straw regarding the government protecting superheroes for the public damage they cause, but it also put them in contact with Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) and his sister Evelyn (Catherine Keener), sibling owners of a giant telecommunications company. Their father was a big supporter of superheroes and they, especially Winston, want to restore and rehabilitate the public image of superheroes, Elastigirl is their choice to be the face of the image rehab, but she quickly crosses paths with a dangerous new foe, a shadowy and mysterious figure known as Screenslaver.

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Brad Bird, who wrote and directed The Incredibles, returns to both duties here and doesn’t do much to mess with the formula that made the first one so successful. The family dynamic is still the central aspect of the story, but what has changed is the dynamics inside the family. With Winston Deavor wanting Elastigirl to be the face of this re-launch of superheroes, Helen and Bob swap roles and Bob becomes the stay-at-home dad taking care of the kids while Helen goes out doing the superhero work. This change works great because it further showcases Helen’s capability as a crimefighter and protector of the citizenry in a way that wasn’t really highlighted in the first film, where we see Mr. Incredible in action in the city early on and then at the end of the film. Two of the best sequences of the film belong to her when she has to stop an out of control monorail reminiscent of Spider-Man 2 and another where she attempts to triangulate Screenslaver’s signal which reminded me of the detective work of Batman.

On the homefront, Bob has to figure out how to parent all three of his children effectively and all three present their own challenges. With Violet, there is trouble with Tony, the boy she was supposed to go on a date with, whose memory gets wiped because of an inadvertent comment from Bob. With Dash, it’s figuring out math and schoolwork and eating healthy meals and keeping his rambunctious side in check. As for Jack-Jack, it’s the discovery of his powers, which were revealed at the end of the first movie, but only to the audience. Jack-Jack’s significant list of powers wear Bob down, who eventually turns to Edna (voiced again by Brad Bird) for assistance. Though I think the film relies a little too heavily on Jack-Jack and the vast array of powers he displays, my favorite part of the film is Edna bonding with him and he literally mimics her and then later mimics the way she walks and talks. There’s also a great nod to The Poltergeist (which starred Craig T. Nelson) where Jack-Jack momentarily disappears into the TV.

While the family is the focus, the film doesn’t skimp on supporting characters, bring back Lucius/Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) but also introducing us to a few new superheroes, like Voyd (Sophia Bush), that don’t overpower the movie or overpopulate the world this movie exists in. It builds to a place that is pretty predictable, but the way everyone is implemented at the end feel right and organic. And as much reliable Pixar comedy is in the story, it’s also a pretty strong superhero movie in its own right. The computer animation of this film, of course, is top notch. It does a terrific job expanding out the retro-futuristic look of the first movie. Frankly, I can’t wait to pop this in and experience it in 4K at home; it looks incredible (pun intended) on the big screen and should be just as incredible (pun still intended) in 4K.  And Michael Giacchino’s score pops.

The plot is slightly predictable, but The Incredibles 2 is a welcome return to the world that Brad Bird and Pixar created 14 years ago. It’s a well-balanced story with great moments for all of the Parr family, including Jack-Jack who squares off with a raccoon. The film has some interesting things to say on parenting and is rather timely on the intrusion of technology in the modern world. I’m not sure where it ranks in the overall hierarchy of Pixar films for me yet, but it is definitely in the upper half, which is saying something given how deep the quality runs in Pixar’s filmography. If there is an Incredibles 3 I hope it doesn’t take another 14 years.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars