When does a superhero become a vigilante?
How does a superhero parent raise their superhero children?
Writer/director Brad Bird pulls a page from The Dark Knight playbook, yet paints a few coats of wickedly fun humor on it so the whole family can enjoy the experience.
When The Incredibles debuted back in 2004 in theaters, movie audiences were treated to a good old fashioned look at a superhero family dealing with bad guys and a changing societal outlook on heroes. Basically, the idea of masked "heroes" still serving a purpose in the world or becoming part of the problem.
Incredibles 2, written and directed by Bird once again, picks up right where the last adventure dropped us off with Bob/Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson), Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), Dash (Huck Milner), Violet (Sarah Powell), and the adorable Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile)-and doesn't miss a beat. The adventures and themes are similar, but the voice work and visuals along with the potent and smart storytelling make it seem fresh and innovative.
That is the true mark of a worthy sequel; a story that is necessary while being a welcome return to great personalities and adventures. You shouldn't leave the flick thinking the filmmakers tacked it on for good measure or a way to make some money off likable characters. When you wait 14 years to make a second film, there can be questions about the efficiency and value of returning to that world. Then again, all the players returned, including the delightful Fro-zone (Samuel L. Jackson), stern yet funny Decker (Jonathan Banks), and Edna (Bird himself).
There are new faces like billionaire investor Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk, always bringing the energy) and his computer wizard sister, Evelyn Deavor (Catherine Keener), who recruit Bob and Helen for a special mission as the world and government tries to make heroes go completely obsolete. There's a few surprises and twists involved that should be savored during the film and not in a review read beforehand, so I digress.
The true thrills here are the reflections on real social commentaries that Bird sneaks into an animated film. For instance, when Helen goes on a solo mission, Bob has to suddenly become an incredible stay-at-home dad, something that enrages and inspires him. This creates several close moments with the powerful infant Jack-Jack as well as the other kids. Seeing Bob try to learn the new way of math, cook breakfast, control a dangerous baby and maturing kids while maintaining his sanity isn't mulled over or snoozed by Bird. He truly invests a real heart in something that is true with many families.
I was a stay-at-home dad for two years and I got playful-and painful-kick out of some of the stuff that Bob goes through. There's superhero work and then there's parenthood. That's examined here with a deft touch from Bird.
There's also the complicated dynamic of a superhero household. The end of the first film showed the Parr family working together to stop a threat, but that doesn't just go away when they return to a hotel since their home was torched in the rescue. There are ramifications from the heroic deed, and Incredibles 2 takes a close look at that. The way that Bob and Helen try to shelter their kid's powers as well as making a normal life is explored here in a wise fashion that doesn't come off as overbearing. I usually look for that in a live action indie film, but it's becoming a regular thing in animation these days.
There's also a subtle nod to the working class mom who can fight the crime and keep the home in one piece. There's some lady power in this sequel, and it's a welcome sight.
Thank you for that, Pixar. You truly changed things.
The voice work is simply amazing. Nelson and Hunter give Bob and Helen a true heart, making you believe in their struggle. Odenkirk puts in fine work as a salesman who believes in heroes almost too much, while Keener puts her own spin on Evelyn. Jackson is pure comic relief, but I must hand it to Eli Fucile for bringing Jack-Jack to life. He was cute for the majority of the first film, but the last few scenes showed you something else was there with the youngest member of the family.
Incredibles 2 takes that tease and runs with it. The highlight of the film is a big fight between the infant and a neighborhood animal trying to invade the house. It's a laugh out loud moment in a movie stuffed with enough enjoyment for the entire family.
The two hours fly by and the characters don't wear out their welcome, leaving the door open for a third adventure. I hope it doesn't take Bird 14 years to bring the Parr family back, but if a movie this good takes a certain amount of time, I can wait. You don't have to think during this film. Just stare ahead and enjoy.
Incredibles 2 isn't just a good sequel; it's arguably better than the original. The 2004 entry film was something else, so that's saying something.
Go see it. Take the family. Laugh a lot. Thank me later. It's a no brainer.