Review: ‘The Incredibles 2’

In the long-awaited follow-up to the 2004 Pixar hit, The Incredibles 2 manages to capture the magic of the first while breaking new ground in the Parr family dynamic. [Spoilers Below]

With The Incredibles 2, Pixar achieved what has often evaded them in recent years: making a serviceable sequel. Outside of Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3, the sequels made by Pixar have been lackluster, see Cars 2, Cars 3 and Finding Dory. In The Incredibles 2, Pixar was able to emulate the first film rather well — they gave us a compelling villain, endearing characters, fun new powers, family drama, and a return to the retrofitted world of the first. Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol) continues to make bangers. Granted, making The Incredibles is a lay-up. What puts asses in the seats? Superheroes and Pixar movies.

On to the review. Some of the most important conflicts of the movie stem from the opening Underminer (John Ratzenberger) scene that is a carryover from the end of the first The Incredibles. The filmmakers are quick to remind us that the reason “Supers” are illegal is because Mr. Incredible/Bob Parr (Craig T. Nelson) is like a bull in a china shop: he just destroys shit. During this opening scene, Violet’s crush, a boy who had just asked her out, sees her nude (without a mask), which results in local law enforcement wiping the boy’s brain of any memory of Violet, and setting in motion one of the many family conflicts that make this film vibrant and poignant. Also following the Underminer incident, Elastigirl/Helen Parr (Holly Hunter) is chosen by the “Legalize Supers” lobbyists (more on them later) as the face of their movement, leaving Bob at home to watch the kids.

The Incredibles 2 is really a family drama in the shell of a superhero Pixar film. The gender roles have been flipped here and the movie unfolds as both parents struggle to adapt to the new normal. No longer is Bob staying up all night in the man cave listening to the police scanner; he’s staying up all night trying to learn math so he can teach Dash, and trying to protect/survive Jack-Jack as he grows into his volatile powers. On the other hand, Elastigirl sits on her bike listening to the police scanner, quipping that she hated when Bob would do it. After ten years of being a stay at home mother, Helen proves she’s still got it as Elastigirl. The filmmakers continue to come up with new and exciting ways to show off Elastigirl’s powers: she swings from building to building like Spider-Man using her outstretched arms, and her bike can break into two, wrapping around trains and defying physics as she rides through underground tunnels. Elastigirl was, without a doubt, the star of The Incredibles 2.

As for Bob, there’s a distinct change between the seemingly distant father of the first film, with his man cave, and the Bob of the second. As Bob struggles to come to terms with his new role in the family hierarchy, to concede the hero/protector role to Elastigirl, he gives an admirable to attempt to be a good dad to Violet, whose boy problems he only manages to make worse. But by the end, both Bob and Violet find a new appreciation for their familial roles (Bob finally steps aside to let Elastigirl take the lead in the climactic battle; Violet volunteers to protect Jack-Jack — a direct contrast to her behavior in the opening Underminer scene). Out of all the characters, Dash seemed to have the least character growth in The Incredibles 2. Come to think of it, I don’t think he did anything in this film besides laugh and hold Jack-Jack a couple of times.

Jack-Jack was cool and not overexposed: he was a fan favorite following The Incredibles and I was skeptical that this film would feature him too heavily. Luckily, the film did a great job of focusing and splitting its time between Helen’s story and Bob’s story. The filmmakers left a lot of potential for Jack-Jack’s powers after The Incredibles and this film showed them off pretty well. My only gripe is that Jack-Jack’s powers are too often used as a Deus ex Machina, like when he exploded in size and crushed the brainwashed Supers to make an escape. However, [Stephen A. Smith voice] the fight scene between Jack-Jack and the racoon was probably the funniest scene in the film. The fight was very “Family Guy-ish” in its protracted absurdity, but it was LOL funny. The raccoon was featured pretty heavily in the posters and promotional material, but outside of this one scene, a highlight of the movie,  you don’t see him. Going forward, my biggest fear is that Disney/Pixar will make a terrible racoon/Jack-Jack spin-off. I’m sure there will be. Olaf’s Frozen Adventure sucked.

Back to those Legalize Supers Lobbyists: Bob Odenkirk (the character’s name doesn’t matter, it’s Bob Odenkirk) and his sister Evelyn Deavors run DEVTECH, a massive telecommunications company. Evelyn is the tech guru who drives the product, and Bob Odenkirk is the businessman who strives to “Make Supers Legal Again!” because their mother and father were gunned down during a burglary while they were children, which Odenkirk blames on the outlawing of Supers. In his eyes, the world is a safer place with Supers. His sister seemingly feels the same way.

Around the same time the Deavors are introduced, the new villain “The Screenslaver” arrives, a masked figure who uses advanced technologies to hijack TV broadcasts (hmm sounds telecommunications-y!) and hypnotize people and control their every action.  

The Screenslaver is a solid villain, but giving real movie patrons seizures is actually badThe reveal that the Screenslaver is, in fact, Evelyn Deavors was pretty predictable. Evelyn and Bob Odenkirk’s character are pushing to Make Supers Legal Again with questionable motives, so right off the bat they’re the obvious candidates for the villain. I would’ve preferred the Screenslaver be a separate villain, but keeping it within the family does allow for a tightly wrapped plot, which has its merits despite the predictability that follows. Evelyn’s plan, however, doesn’t make much sense upon closer inspection. Build up support/approval for Supers so much that they’re on the verge of being legalized in a hundred countries, then brainwash 10 of the Supers, to do what? It would’ve made more sense to never get in touch with the Parr family and let them continue living in a motel with the world hating them after Mr. Incredible destroyed the city and failed to stop the Underminer.

Overall, the film did a great job of capturing the magic of the first. A well-structured plot, solid characters, great humor, creative set pieces, and new Supers all within the “retrofitted” world built by Brad Bird and Pixar. Seriously, I have no idea if this film is set in 1976 or 2026.

The film also did a fine job of balancing the main cast with the featured cast: Edna Mode didn’t serve much of a purpose in the film, but I love her character so it was a treat to see her, however briefly. There was also a nice sprinkling of Frozone throughout, who seemed happy to come off the bench and shoot a high percentage. I love when Samuel L. Jackson yells at me as much as the next guy, but I’m glad he continued to take a backseat to the family.

I am always wary about Pixar sequels but I am looking forward to The Incredibles 3 (and the return of the Underminer, whose storyline wasn’t revisited after his escape in the opening sequence). There are so many places that Pixar can go with these characters and in this world. The family drama backbone of these films is a bottomless well to explore. Hopefully it doesn’t take another 14 years. While not as good as the first, The Incredibles 2 is a worthwhile sequel and is easily a top ten Pixar film.

86/100

 

BONUS: Bao Review (The Short Film Before The Incredibles 2)

I don’t know what those things are but they look tasty. The short should’ve ended when the mom ate the kid when he was trying to leave his fiancé. That was, honestly, one of the most unexpected twists I’ve ever seen. The entire theatre was silent then burst out in awkward laughter. My thoughts on the fiancé did a 180 by the end but I still have my doubts… she’s too hot for him. Awesome short, though.

94/100

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