Incredibles 2 review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
Pixar has had its hills and valleys, but you’d have to search far and wide for one to deny The Incredibles as one of their top-tier masterpieces. So revered was Brad Bird’s family superhero affair that it became the only film that Pixar’s following longed for a sequel. They waited as the years went by and the likes of Toy Story, Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, and Cars all received continuations, pining for the studio to fulfill their wishes. But the wait was more than worth it as Brad Bird returns to The Incredibles after 14 years with something fresh and familiar, proving his animation filmmaking muscles haven’t dulled with age.
The story may at first seem to be a cultural shifting of the familiar family dynamic. In order to make superheroes more acceptable (and legal) to the general public, Helen/Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) goes a solo crusade to clean up crime in a city that could use some superpowered vigilantism. While she is busy being hot on the trail of the new supervillain Screenslaver, Bob/Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) stays at home to hold down the fort for his children; the speedster son Dash, the invisible/shield-crafting daughter, and the unpredictable baby Jack-Jack of seemingly infinite powers. On a purely visual level, the expectations are met; Helen pulls some impressive stunts with a splitting bike and Bob forms a new slump and bags under his eyes for the tireless duties of parenting.
But there’s a much different focus this time around. While the previous film carried a theme of recapturing glory in a world that holds no favor for the accomplished, Incredibles 2 holds a heavier theme of placing trust in others to do well enough on their own. This is not easy for Bob, considering he’s use to both being the breadwinner and the criminal-bester. He takes his new role with a held tongue and concealed scowl, realizing that this move will be good for his family, even if it’s a tough job to accept. While Elastigirl’s adventure is more of an inspiring romp, there’s a more interesting aspect of her being a positive female role model. Her inspiration makes her adored by the public, but also makes the conspiracy she uncovers all the tougher to topple.
If this is all sounding a little adult for a Pixar film, especially with talk of politics and laws, fear not. The key kid component is reserved entirely for Jack-Jack, the child of no intelligible words, but plenty of Chaplin style gags with his many powers. Highlights include a fight with the neighborhood raccoon and his adorable means of slipping into another dimension every time he sneezes. So precious is this baby that even the usually shrill fashion designer Edna (Brad Bird) can’t resist the opportunity to be seen as an auntie. Older kids will also find a lot to love in Dash’s I-didn’t-do-it reactions of tinkering with their new house and Violet’s frustrating love life felt more realized than any animated tween in recent memory.
As with the best of sequels, Incredibles 2 doubles up on what made the first film shine by exploring and adding more to its world. The world feels bigger and better defined, with cities of hover-trains and 60s-style TV stations. There are more heroes present and accounted for in fantastical action sequences, involving all sorts of powers from lava barf to interdimensional portals. The musical score by Michael Giacchino returns with some tracks that go for heavier jazz in the more somber moments while still maintaining that James Bond style swagger of the original theme. And Brad Bird makes his love and inspiration of Jonny Quest known perfectly by inserting plenty of Easter eggs from a Quest logo in the city background to flat-out inserting Jonny Quest onto the televisions of this world.
Incredibles 2 is every bit the sequel the previous film deserves as well as being the type of films that Pixar should be striving for. It’s thoughtful, intelligent, witty, silly, and builds a strikingly original world that seems to be perpetually stuck in the 1960s. Better than the original? Very possible, but hard to say. All I can say is that I now have a stellar double-feature from Pixar.
Word of caution for parents: The film does feature strobing lights for the villain’s hypnotism plan, including one disorienting scene where a hero is trapped in a room covered floor to ceiling in flashing lights. Please be advised for parents with children prone to epilepsy.