Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl, Violet, Dash and Jack-Jack are back to take on evildoers in the animated sequel “Incredibles 2.”
Living up to Pixar’s masterful The Incredibles is a tough task, considering that it’s the storied animation studio’s best movie. Still, 14 years later, the superhero sequel makes a Herculean effort, putting the spotlight on a mother taking charge of her life and one seriously sleep-deprived dad.
Harnessing the same heart and humor that marked 2004’s original Incredibles, writer/director Brad Bird’s Incredibles 2 (★★★ out of four; rated PG; in theaters nationwide Friday) brings back the whole do-gooding family — including Bob “Mr. Incredible” Parr (voiced by Craig T. Nelson), wife Helen/Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), teen daughter Violet (Sarah Vowell) and speedster son Dash (Huck Milner) — for an adventure that’s bigger and bolder, if not better, than its first outing.
With cooing baby Jack-Jack in tow, the clan picks up right where it left off, swooping in to foil the buck-toothed Underminer (Pixar staple John Ratzenberger) as he schemes to rampage all over the city. The Incredibles do stop his drill machine, though the wanton destruction reminds everyone that, yes, powerful “Supers” are still illegal.
Telecommunications magnate Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk), with the help of his tech guru sister (Catherine Keener), wants to turn public support to the side of heroes. They recruit Bob, Helen and oh-so-cool Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) to show it isn’t easy saving the day from common criminals and annoying evildoers, and Helen gets chosen as the face of this new initiative — which chafes Mr. Incredible’s considerably large ego.
Leaning into a retro-meets-futuristic vibe, there’s a very strong progressive streak throughout Incredibles 2, including flipping the gender dynamic on Bob and Helen’s roles from the first film. Loving life not having to hide her stretchy abilities, Elastigirl goes off on missions like stopping a runaway hovertrain and discovers the presence of a new supervillain threat, the mysterious masked hacker Screenslaver. Meanwhile, Bob becomes a stay-at-home dad and figures out that super-strength doesn’t help in juggling Violet’s dating struggles, Dash’s math homework and Jack-Jack’s multiple nascent powers (from laser eyes to turning into a very cute demon beast).
Every scene involving Jack-Jack is a complete joy, and Bird brilliantly captures the completely exhausting experience of dealing with a newborn — every parent can relate to Mr. Incredible falling asleep standing up or Jack-Jack smacking his dad when Bob dozes off while reading a bedtime book.
Bob and Helen’s parallel stories each do their part for the overall narrative, but Incredibles 2 loses a little specialness when they’re separated; it hums the most when they’re together as bantering, loving partners.
Although it’s hard to imagine a time when superhero movies didn’t rule Hollywood, The Incredibles set the bar high before the Avengers ever teamed up. The sequel offers a lot of neat callbacks and payoffs but suffers from the same problem as much of its live-action ilk: New, colorful heroes join the fray, mostly just to move the plot along rather than offer fun character development. One returning supporting player who makes the most of her screen time: Edna Mode (Bird), eccentric fashion guru to the Super stars and quite the emergency babysitter.
Pixar doesn’t have the greatest track record when it comes to sequels, but this follow-up surpasses most everything without Toy Story in the title. The animation is stellar and detailed in excellent action sequences, Michael Giacchino’s score swings harder than ever, and the first film’s family-friendly warmth is just as appealing now as it was then, even if Incredibles 2 isn’t totally incredible itself.
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