INCREDIBLES 2 Review
Director: Brad Bird
I remember watching the first INCREDIBLES countless times during my after-school care. So often that it’s hard to return back to the elusive childhood experience; perhaps it’s the cynicism that comes with growing up, or jokes that no longer range beyond characters repeatedly slamming their heads against the wall. But with THE INCREDIBLES 2 I found myself effortlessly brought back to a time of pure fun. 14 years later, the film holds up to a near impossible standard set by the original, and not merely through its spectacularly orchestrated action, tight humor, or compelling cast of characters, but because of its grounding emphasis on family. Quality over quantity, one might say—Marvel take note.
Clearly Brad Bird and the Pixar team were aware of the enormous gap in time between the first and second film in the series. In the way that TOY STORY’s characters grew with its audience, INCREDIBLES plays upon this gap by doing just the opposite. Instead of experiencing the growing pains of adolescence, and leaving for college, INCREDIBLES 2 throws the audience right back in where the previous film ended. The UNDERMINERRR (emphasis on the yelling) wreaks havoc on the city of Metroville and the Parr family works together to stop him. Bob/Mr. Incredible (Craig T Nelson), Helen/Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), Dash (Huck Milner), Violet (Sarah Vowell), Jack Jack (Eli Fucile), Edna Mode (Brad Bird), and Lucius/Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) all stay central to the plot. It’s refreshing to revisit a world preserved in amber, albeit retrofuturist 1960s amber, but with familiar characters and emblematic of a simpler time.
“Goo Goo Gaga, my mom’s a badass” – Jack Jack
Despite saving the day countless times, the Incredible family faces the same conflict as the previous film; understandably, people don’t trust power in the hands of the privileged few. So, “supers” are still illegal and it feels slightly like the sequel backsteps over progress made in the previous film. But the same nostalgia that plops people in seats seems to echo throughout smooth-talking, Devtech CEO, Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk), who dreams of a world where superheroes are free to protect. His idealism is refreshing, reminding the Parrs that “politicians don’t understand people who do good just because it’s right,” and he promises to make supers legal again. The only catch is that Elastigirl must take center stage to avoid Mr. Incredible’s (Craig T Nelson) destructive methods. Similarly, Winston’s sister, Evelyn (Catherine Keener), is the true brains behind the Devtech operation.
So, while preserving the emphasis on family, the film repackages the sequel with a refreshing feminist twist. It’s a clever way of keeping up with current issues and avoiding the nastier parts of the real 1960s America. To Brad Bird’s credit, Elastigirl has always been a strong, female character since the first film, but Mr. Incredible’s new role is arguably the most revealing about what has changed. In fact, much of the film’s humor comes from Mr. Incredible taking a sidekick role in the film as house dad. It’s not funny because “men shouldn’t be taking care of the kids,” but rather because Mr. Incredible has never even considered this side-lined role to be a possibility. As a result, the change in familial structure is a great learning opportunity for the entire cast of characters. Dash has the thinnest plot and Violet’s is a little more complex, but baby Jack Jack provides the biggest laughs.
Me after reading the morning news for three minutes
Unfortunately, and I’ll keep this vague to avoid spoilers, but the villain of the film doesn’t quite match the depth of the original. While Syndrome’s motivations stemmed from rejection on behalf of the hero and a twisted sense of equality, while his actions weren’t justified, they were partially understood. In the sequel, the main villain’s motivations seem thin and convenient in comparison. The concepts are no doubt in place to tie into the greater themes of the film, but this is one of the otherwise seamless film’s biggest shortcomings. Despite this, the villain is entirely serviceable and doesn’t strongly detract from the film at large.
So when I saw the film on Father’s Day, there were kids and adults, old people and young, all enjoying what Pixar does best: creating universally enjoyable stories. But if you haven’t seen it yet, feel free to go alone, INCREDIBLES 2 will bring you into the Parr family, throw you through the full gamut of emotions, and most of all, let you feel like a kid again. It’s raw, pure, fun, and while it may not completely capture the feeling of being introduced to THE INCREDIBLES’ universe for the first time, it comes pretty darn close.