REVIEW: “Incredibles 2”; Another Super Outing From Pixar
At the end of 2004’s “The Incredibles,” the Parr family is ready to spring into action as The Underminer begins his villainous plan. And then…that was it, and the end credits rolled. For all the Pixar sequels that we’ve gotten so far, perhaps the one fans clamored for the most was a return to the world of The Incredibles. Thirteen years, seven months, and ten days later (going on US wide release dates), “Incredibles 2,” the sequel fans have been waiting for has arrived…
But just to make you wait a liiiiitle bit longer, the film opens with the newest entry in the catalogue of Pixar shorts, “Bao.” “Bao” is the story of an older woman who sits down to a dinner of homemade bao buns, only to find that one of them has come to life. The woman embraces the bao like a child, raising and nurturing it as it grows up. But as life goes, the bao eventually yearns to move out and start a life of its own. What happens next, I won’t spoil, but suffice it to say that it’s an unexpected, funny and heartwarming ending. It’s a cute short that manages to pack a lot into a small period of time. And then, we finally get to return to the world of The Incredibles…
Where we pick up is exactly where we left off. The film opens with Bob Parr, aka Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson), and his wife Helen, aka Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) ready to take on The Underminer (John Ratzenberger). Their children, Violet (Sarah Vowell) and Dash (Huck Milner), are left in charge of their baby brother, Jack-Jack, as the adults head into battle, joined by Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson). Later, Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl are summoned, along with Frozone, to the headquarters of DEVTECH, where they meet with tech billionaire Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk), and his sister, tech developer Evelyn (Catherine Keener). Winston, an avid fan of superheroes and their exploits, offers the heroes an opportunity: with his resources and Evelyn’s technology, he believes that he can turn the tide of public opinion back in favor of superheroes and get legislation passed to make superhero activity legal again. He proposes that Elastigirl lead the way by fighting crime in the city of New Urbem. Helen agrees to the deal, and Bob becomes a stay-at-home dad, dealing with a lavish new house courtesy of Winston, Violet’s turbulent love life, Dash’s academic struggles, and Jack-Jack’s developing superpowers. Naturally, the macho Bob soon finds himself struggling with his new responsibilities, enlisting the help of Frozone and Edna Mode (Brad Bird). Meanwhile, Helen goes to work in New Urbem, soon finding herself on the trail of The Screenslaver, a supervillain capable of hypnotizing anybody looking at a screen.
As far as the plot goes, it’s simple, and at times, predictable (it’s not too hard to deduce the identity of The Screenslaver before the big reveal), and to be quite honest, hits a few of the same notes the original did with some minor alterations, but it’s punctuated with many memorable moments, and ultimately, left me satisfied. Director Brad Bird has shown he has an eye for bold visuals, and this film is no exception. The design of this film, much like its predecessor, is pure eye candy, paying tribute to 50’s and 60’s sci-fi and architecture.
Even after all this time, the characters are still fun to follow. Most notably, Jack-Jack and his new powers are easily the highlight of the film, providing many of the laughs this film has. (Particularly Jack-Jack’s battle against a neighborhood raccoon, which I won’t spoil here.) Edna Mode’s appearance is relatively brief, but Bird knows when to keep audiences wanting more rather than overusing the character. Odenkirk brings an enjoyable energy to the film as Winston, giving a more optimistic portrayal than what I was expecting from the trailers and commercial. Another highlight of the new cast is Voyd (Sophia Bush), an emerging superhero who figures prominently in the film’s third act. The returning cast is as strong as ever, picking up seamlessly from the first film. The characters, particularly Bob and Helen, have grown somewhat, but in other ways, they’re as flawed as they were before.
Ultimately, on the question of “worth the wait or too little, too late,” I find myself with an answer I didn’t expect: it’s more of the same. If you were looking for a film that takes these character to another level, you might be disappointed. But if you’re hoping for a sequel that’s at least as fun as the original, you’re likely to leave the theater happy. In many ways, it’s a lot like the first film: humor, heart, fantastic visuals, and engaging action. And personally, I loved “The Incredibles.” It’s still one of my favorite Pixar films (though “WALL-E” still remains my favorite). And in the end, I really enjoyed “Incredibles 2.” It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it’s a solid, entertaining film. In fact, I’d say it’s the best sequel Pixar has put out that doesn’t have the words “Toy” and “Story” in the title. And that’s super enough for me. (Though please, Mr. Bird and Pixar in general, if you’re going to eventually make “Incredibles 3,” for the love of all that’s good, please don’t make us wait another fourteen years for it.)