Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter and Samuel L. Jackson are back for the sequel to Pixar’s 2004 hit about a family of superheroes forced to hide their powers.
Along with the Toy Story trilogy, ‘The Incredibles’ is one of the jewels in the crown that made Pixar the ne plus ultra of animation companies. Boosted by central characters that remain vastly engaging and a deep supply of wit, ‘Incredibles 2’ certainly proves worth the wait, even if it hits the target but not the bull’s-eye in quite the way the first one did. It remains to be seen whether everyone who loved the original when they were 6 years old and is now 20 will rush out to catch this follow-up.Still front and center are the key elements that made Brad Bird’s original creation so captivating: the tested but resilient bonds within the Middle American family with secret superhero lives, the fabulous late-'50s/early '60s space-age-obsessed design scheme, the deep-dish reservoir of wit, a keenly expressed sense of what it takes to maintain a balanced marriage and great command of a narrative curveball employed to register frequent surprise. On top of all this is the pronounced female slant: the story shines the spotlight on Elastigirl, with adolescent daughter Violet beginning to spread her wings. For good measure, infant tyke Jack-Jack hilariously begins displaying his potential with incipient displays of incredible behavior.
Oblivious to the passage of real time, the tale picks up exactly where the first one left off, with a massive drill guided by the aptly named Underminer (John Ratzenberger) breaking up through the pavement to wreak havoc on Municiberg. There to thwart him are Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) and Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), the latter displaying an astounding flexibility that goes beyond what she displayed the first time around in an elaborate opening sequence designed to announce that the ‘Incredibles’ are back.
But the civil authorities don’t appreciate the destruction caused by their intervention and ban superheroes for good. What this means for the Parrs — Bob and Helen along with 14-year-old Violet (Sarah Vowell), 10-year-old Dash (Huckleberry Milner) and baby Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile) — is two weeks at the gorgeously retro Safari Court motel before they’re cast out and forced to decide what to do with the rest of their lives.
Given the official opposition to superheroes, it falls to entrepreneurs to make use of their talents (the original Incredibles expressed the same aversion to government in favor of private enterprise), and it's Helen who gets the call from telecommunications tycoon Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk). The latter is arguably the least well-conceived and -written character in the film — he's given to upbeat platitudes and cliched attitudes — but the slack is at least somewhat taken up by his tech-wiz sister Evelyn (Catherine Keener).Grumpy and disgruntled, the professionally sidelined Bob must assume familial duties that involve various challenges: Violet is going through teen angst and a boy problem; Dash can't wait to join in the adventuring; and Jack-Jack hilariously begins exhibiting superhero attributes at unexpected moments.
Elastigirl gets to flex her limbs as never before, and it's a kick to see her exult in them; she's a woman newly unbound. Taking on human opponents would be far too easy for her, given her dexterous, shape-shifting skills that enable her arms and legs to instantly stretch to unimaginable lengths. As visually spectacular and speedy as these rescue scenes may be, they're also a bit much, becoming somewhat rote, even repetitive — (wo)man versus machine, high-speed thrills that continually have to keep topping each other while the heroine discovers the seemingly unlimited extent of her powers. Still, this sex reversal where physical achievement and societal role acceptance are concerned is the central dramatic conceit and sociological preoccupation of ‘Incredibles 2’, which will make it as popular with women of all ages as it will be for kids. Naturally, the other members of the family ultimately get to join in the fun as well.
Two fondly remembered characters from the original, Edna Mode and Frozone, are back, but rather briefly. Of the new characters, the best is the wily Evelyn, distinctively voiced by Keener. As before, one of the key creative contributions here is the super jazzy score by Michael Giacchino. At 118 minutes, the new film is just three minutes longer than the original.