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‘The Incredibles 2’ (review)

Produced by John Walker, Nicole Paradis Grindle
Written and Directed by Brad Bird
Starring Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter,
Sarah Vowell, Huck Milner, Samuel L. Jackson,
Brad Bird, Jonathan Banks, Bob Odenkirk,
Catherine Keener, Sophia Bush, Phil LaMarr

 

Generally, there are three real options for a sequel with a significant gap of time in between it and the original.

First, the writers could add too many elements, given the chance to tweak and change in near perpetuity.

Second, it could be underwhelming from the anticipation and expectation from audiences that the longer the wait, the better the product.

Or third, it could knock it out of the park after careful painstaking work extending over a decade.

Incredibles 2 may not have perfected the formula, but it is a fun (though maybe a bit slow) outing for all ages.

The second installment takes place right where the first ended, with the whole family ready to jump back into the superhero game. Alas, the world is still not quite ready to welcome their brand of “bad guy chase first, property damage assessment after” crime fighting. But when wealthy and well-connected business siblings Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) and techie sister Evelyn (Catherine Keener) reach out with a plan to change their status in society, Bob/Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) is willing to do anything for the chance. Including stay home with the kids while Helen/Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) takes center stage.

Given that the first film focuses so heavily on Mr. Incredible and his development, it is refreshing to see the crime-fighting Elastigirl that he fell for all those years ago.

We see her take charge of more than just life-saving opportunities though; from interviews to sleuthing to diplomacy she shows that there is nothing she cannot handle when someone gives her the opportunity to lead. “Girls, come on. Leave the saving of the world to the men? I don’t think so” she says, in the brief clip of an interview fans will remember from the beginning of The Incredibles.

Here it plays as a rerun in the background at a studio, on the same set as an ambassador who fangirls at seeing the Elastigirl in the flesh. Helen is dynamic in ways we never got to truly explore before.

While the world worships her turn in the sun, Bob is reliving the same despondency that came from losing his superhero status before. Saving the day from the villain of Dash’s “new math” homework and Violet’s teenage angst does not hold the same draw for him, but seeing Bob come around to the importance of his role to his own family is equally as rewarding as Elastigirl’s limelight lessons. He loops in Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) in a more expanded role as best friend and confidant, and the combined soundboards of him and Edna (Brad Bird) provide much needed levity and balance to the heavy themes presented throughout the film.

It is amazing that the runtime is within a few minutes of the original, given all that Bird tries to explore.

From the noble drudgery of stay-at-home parenting to sibling dynamics to government policy and on, there are many hooks that are never completely reeled in. Much of the dialogue in the beginning sets supers up as “illegals” with an argument about whether they should be hiding who they are in order to be law-abiding citizens or practicing civil disobedience and saving people because it is the right thing to do, illegal or not. These and other incredibly interesting plot lines surface but then disappear over and over again. Who would imagine that a cartoon movie would suffer because of its less than in depth coverage of weighty themes?

Pixar always manages to be the first, whether its a good thing or not.

Luckily, one of the best elements – the original’s mod-50s/60s style – sees no changes at all, and still seamlessly blends a classic retro feel with futuristic technology. Thanks to a new villain, the Screenslaver, we get lots of new battles and gadgets as well as several new supers that have come out of hiding at the hope of a change in political mood towards their kind (really, such a wasted opportunity for exploration). A wonderfully jazzy soundtrack helps pick up the pace where anything else might have added to the the occasionally laggy pacing.

Incredibles 2 is not quite worth 14 years of wait time. But it is still a worthwhile summer flick that demonstrates much love and care has gone into making sure that the audience that has been waiting those 14 years enjoys the film just as much as those who may have just seen it last month on Disney Channel.

11 years ago, I might have called this perfect.

 

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