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Incredibles 2 Movie Review

Disney/Pixar's Incredibles 2 (2017) movie poster Incredibles 2

Theatrical Release: June 15, 2018 / Running Time: 118 Minutes / Rating: PG

Writer/Director: Brad Bird

Voice Cast: Craig T. Nelson (Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible), Holly Hunter (Helen Parr/Elastigirl), Sarah Vowell (Violet Parr), Huckleberry Milner (Dashiell "Dash" Parr), Catherine Kenner (Evelyn Deavor), Eli Fucile (Jack-Jack Parr), Bob Odenkirk (Winston Deavor), Samuel L. Jackson (Lucius Best/Frozone), Michael Bird (Tony Rydinger), Sophia Bush (Voyd), Brad Bird (Edna Mode), Phil LaMarr (Krushauer, Helectrix), Isabella Rosselini (Ambassador), Adam Gates (Chad Brentley), Jonathan Banks (Agent Rick Dicker), John Ratzenberger (Underminer), Bill Wise (Screenslaver/Pizza Guy), Nick Bird (Monster Jack-Jack Parr), Paul Eiding (Reflux), Barry Bostwick (Mayor), Michael B. Johnson (Victor Cachet), Jere Burns (Detective), Adam Rodriguez (Detective), Kimberly Adair Clark (Honey)

 

In many ways, the world is very different now than it was in 2004. If we narrow our focus to just the movie business, that is especially true. Some stars who were extremely popular then are now unemployable (Lindsay Lohan) or relegated to Netflix originals (Adam Sandler, Will Smith), while some who were unemployable (Robert Downey Jr.) are now huge stars. With few exceptions, the franchises that thrived then are no longer running or exist in a new rebooted/reinvented/diminished state.
Fourteen years ago, Disney was not yet a brand purveyor towering over all the competition. They were a studio who made big, small, and medium-sized movies, including hand-drawn animated ones that flopped (Teacher's Pet, Home on the Range). Animation as a medium was evolving, with computer animation becoming more commonplace but still remaining the domain of just a few studios.

Arguably the most significant of those studios was Pixar and fourteen years later, that is still the case. Pixar too has evolved from pioneer to perennial major player. Their role as one of a few highly valued brands within the Disney family has seen them alternating between original movies and sequels/prequels/spin-offs. Incredibles 2, the studio's twentieth feature film to date, is one of the latter, although it is the one sequel that has always seemed to make sense, since 2004's original film was about a family of superheroes and superheroes typically have more than one adventure.

The Incredibles, Pixar's sixth feature, was an instant outlier in the studio's still young canon. It was their first PG-rated movie, their first to center on human beings, and their first directed by someone with a pre-existing career. Writer-director Brad Bird was an outsider, having helmed the underperforming yet ultimately beloved The Iron Giant (1999) for Warner Bros. after years of working in television on shows like "The Simpsons", "The Critic", and "King of the Hill." Extending Pixar's winning streak with the commercially potent and critically adored Incredibles, Bird was embraced by Pixar and wound up taking over Ratatouille and turning it into something of a hit. After two forays into live-action filmmaking -- the franchise-reviving Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011) and Disney's Tomorrowland (2015), an unprofitable mixed bag that has its vocal supporters -- Bird returns to Pixar and to the Parrs, that extraordinary family of five.

Elastgirl gets a chance to be a solo hero again, complete with an Elasticycle in Disney/Pixar's "Incredibles 2.quot;

Incredibles 2 picks up right where the original left off, as the superhero clan and their friend Frozone (voiced again by Samuel L. Jackson) do urban battle with the destructive villain The Underminer (John Ratzenberger). Government ally Rick Dicker (Jonathan Banks, audibly taking over from the late Bud Luckey) ties up some loose ends. Unfortunately, though it looked like previously outlawed superheroes were back in public and could make use of their powers again, the Incredibles' row with Underminer gets them much flak and superheroism is once again illegal.

This development divides the Parrs. Mom (Holly Hunter), the stretchy Elastigirl, puts on a face and tries to support law abiding. Dad, brawny Mr. Incredible himself (Craig T. Nelson) cannot accept the questionably legislation so passively, his thirst for fighting evil as unquenchable as ever. Having just gotten their first taste of heroics, their two eldest kids -- invisibility and force field-producing awkward teen Violet (Sarah Vowell) and energetic, lightning fast pre-teen Dash (Huck Milner, seamlessly inheriting the role) -- are more focused on other facets of adolescence.

Then, Mr. and Mrs. Incredible along with Frozone are summoned to meet with one Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk), a tycoon who adores superheroes and wants nothing more for them to be able to do their thing. The elaborate, deep-pocketed plan of Winston and his '60s Suzanne Pleshette-esque sister Evelyn (Catherine Keener) is to begin with Elastigirl alone saving the day with a mission that involves a feed-hijacking, hypnotic villain known as The Screenslaver.

While Mom is off trying to save the world, Dad has his hands full with learning "New Math" alongside Dash and comforting Violet over the fact that her crush has had his memory of her erased. Oh, and then there's the Incredibles' baby Jack-Jack, who we've already known has some powers of his own revealed in the end of the first film and explored in the excellent made-for-DVD short Jack-Jack Attack. More powers continue to reveal themselves in the baby, and his self-combustion and ventures into other dimensions give Bob more to do than just feedings and diaper changes.

While his wife is off saving the world, Mr. Incredible has his hands full with baby Jack-Jack and his newly-discovered powers.

Not since Toy Story 3 have I entered a film with such high expectations.
Just last week, I screened Ocean's Eight and in my review I expressed my love for Ocean's Eleven. But that was a spin-off with an all-new cast; it wouldn't be realistic to expect the same level of entertainment. Although the The has inexplicably been dropped from the title, there is no way to view Incredibles 2 as anything but a direct sequel to what I consider the greatest film released last decade. This is certainly not the first instance of Pixar taking their time to revisit a beloved and successful universe. The seemingly infinite eleven years between the second and third Toy Story movies have already been dwarved by the twelve and thirteen years it took to make successors to Monsters, Inc. and Finding Nemo. And the gap between Incredibles adventures is even slightly larger still.

Untimeliness is usually a fatal flaw for sequels. What works in one era, especially for comedies, doesn't work in another. And the drop-off in quality becomes more pronounced when nostalgia enters the equation. Movies like The Godfather Part III and Anchorman 2 failed to recapture the bottled lightning of their predecessors. Pixar has had better luck with lapses than most, with Toy Story 3 being the gold standard of sequels, and Finding Dory and Monsters University having at least a decent amount of charms. Nonetheless, it is most impressive how seemingly effortlessly that Bird, his mostly returning voice cast (which includes him reprising costume designer Edna Mode in a single tasteful scene), and the large crew of storytellers and animators are able to follow up a fourteen-year-old masterpiece without missing a beat.

The characterization remains rich and immersive. Bird's new narrative admirably avoids retread while touching on other timely and universally relevant themes and packing all kinds of creative ideas into the plot. The visuals that were stunning by the standards of 2004, the same year that gave us unsightly The Polar Express, have advanced considerably and yet not really noticeably. The striking cartoony character designs are all consistent with what they were before and yet the animated movement, lighting, details, and environments all provide new levels of breathtaking achievement light years ahead of the original's still pretty dazzling offerings. The sequel doubles down on the 1960s setting that was largely just hinted at times in the original film down to audio and video from a couple of the decade's television programs.

While superior on a technical level, Incredibles 2 falls ever so slightly short of its predecessor in terms of overall quality. It's not as funny, it's not as moving, and it's less of a treatise on superherodom than an exploration into where these characters go next. The surprise villain and overt threat that comes with it is less than surprising and not as deftly handled or powerful as the Syndrome material on the original. And yet, all of these seemingly substantial observations do not add up to any serious concern. Incredibles 2 may not surpass its predecessor, but the fact that someone who holds the original among the top 0.1% of all movies he's ever seen could even entertain that notion is accomplishment enough.

The Incredibles -- Mr. Incredible, Elastgirl, Dash, Jack-Jack, and Violet -- return in "Incredibles 2", which opens with their downtown battle against The Underminer.

Incredibles 2 is an absolute delight that somehow manages not to disappoint in any way, even after the large expectations that come from the combination of brilliance and a long wait. Bird long maintained that he wouldn't make a sequel until he had a great idea worthy of pursuing. In light of how long it took, maybe the ideas here don't feel that spectacular, especially when compared to the first film's.
It's extremely tough to mind when a movie is this much fun. Maybe you loved Bird's live-action films and are itching for him to make the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake movie he's been rumored to be developing for ages. But how can you not love these characters and take such great pleasure in revisiting them and being swept up in the compelling duel between great powers and the need to fit in?

Wes Anderson's stop motion Isle of Dogs is one of the best films of 2018 and yet Incredibles 2 blows it away by just about every measure. While it's extremely premature to discuss Oscars more than eight months before the ceremony and seven until nominations, Anderson seems to be walking into another 2009, when his lovable Fantastic Mr. Fox got trounced by Pixar's Up in most Best Animated Feature categories. The first Incredibles won the Best Animated Feature Oscar over the commercially superior Shrek 2. It also won Best Sound Editing (becoming the first Pixar film to win multiple Oscars) and was nominated for Original Screenplay and Sound Mixing. In addition to Anderson's eccentric indie, Incredibles will face competition from Disney's own formidable animation department via Thanksgiving's Wreck-It Ralph sequel and Sony's bold-looking pre-Christmas release Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. But I would be surprised, even with the aversion held towards sequels (Toy Story 3 is the only sequel to win Best Animated Feature and Pixar's only sequel to even be nominated in that category) if Incredibles 2 is not in the running, even if it requires a longer memory from voters than most contenders.


The biggest disappointment regarding Incredibles 2 may just be the short before the film (and I'm not discussing the introductory pre-screening video from Bird and voice cast members explaining and apologizing for the sequel's untimeliness). Before the main feature, we get Bao, the latest in the tradition of Pixar's typically dialogue-free theatrical shorts. Written and directed by Domee Shi, this tells the story of a Chinese mother who raises a dumpling as a child, albeit one who grows up and more insolent. That's just as weird as it sounds and features the most bizarre of climaxes. For those who have ragged on Pixar for their unwillingness to let women seize creative roles (Brave's original writer-director Brenda Chapman got fired and Rashida Jones left the studio over diversity concerns while working on Toy Story 4), this highly unappealing 'toon must be doubly disappointing. Maybe it'll improve on a second viewing, but for now this has got to be the worst thing I've ever seen bearing the Pixar name.

Related Reviews:
Now in Theaters: Solo: A Star Wars Story • Deadpool 2 • Ocean's Eight • Isle of Dogs
Written and Directed by Brad Bird: The Incredibles: In Theaters • DVD • Blu-ray | Ratatouille | Tomorrowland
Coco • Cars 3 • Finding Dory • The Good Dinosaur • Inside Out • Monsters University • Cars 2 • Toy Story 3 • Up • WALL•E
Toy Story • Toy Story 2 • Monsters Inc. • Finding Nemo • A Bug's Life • Cars • Brave
Zootopia • Wreck-It Ralph • The Lego Movie • Big Hero 6

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Reviewed June 13, 2018.



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