2018, PG, 118 min. Directed by Brad Bird. Voices by Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, Huck Milner, Samuel L. Jackson, Bob Odenkirk, Catherine Keener, Sophia Bush, Isabella Rossellini, Jonathan Banks, Eli Fucile, John Ratzenberger.
REVIEWED By Josh Kupecki, Fri., June 15, 2018
In the 14 years since Pixar’s The Incredibles debuted, consumer intake of the heroic adventures of mask- and cape-clad saviors has grown exponentially. It's even leading some cinemagoers to suffer from “Superhero Fatigue,” an existential disorder whose side effects may include, but aren’t limited to: a numbness in the visual cortex due to overexposure of depictions of CGI destruction, a tendency for the mind to suddenly go blank when friends and family are discussing plot minutiae and costume designs, and sudden narcolepsy. The first film was released four years prior to Marvel’s Iron Man and could be seen as the precursor to the subsequent onslaught. And while The Incredibles is one of the more highly regarded films in the Pixar stable, this sequel stands adeptly by its side while avoiding most of the aforementioned exhaustion.
Incredibles 2 picks up the action immediately following the events ending the original film. The Parr family – Mr. Incredible (Nelson), Elastigirl (Hunter), Violet (Vowell), and Dash (Milner) – thwart the Underminer (Pixar good-luck-charm Ratzenberger) from robbing a bank, but the collateral damage to the infrastructure of New Urbrem sends them fleeing into hiding again. Enter Winston Deavor (Odenkirk), a tycoon whose mission is to see the return of superheroes to public life and service. He launches a campaign using Elastigirl in PR stunts designed to ingratiate her in the public eye. That leaves the paterfamilias as a stay-at-home dad, coping with the domestic duties and the increasingly erratic emergence of their young baby Jack-Jack’s mutant powers (they are legion). Eventually, the main nemesis appears, a brainwashing mastermind called Screenslaver, and the family must work together to save the day again.
Pixar has nary an inferior product in its filmography (sorry, except those Cars films and their assorted spin-offs), and the studio has become the gold standard for big-budget computer animated entertainment. The themes of Pixar’s output generally adhere to a loose template that goes something like: In order to achieve a goal, you need your friends and family to do so, and the relationships you have with those people/toys/various manifestations of your own psyche, etc. are the glue that bind humanity together. In the Incredibles films, some critics have noted that the premise of a society that tries to stifle extraordinary people falls right in line with Ayn Rand’s Objectivist philosophy, but I have a hard time believing that writer/director Brad Bird and co. are trying to indoctrinate the wee ones, intentional or not (I guess we’ll leave that to Zack Snyder, who wants to adapt Rand’s The Fountainhead. Good luck!).
The action sequences are breathtaking, and the character-driven humor is, as per usual, top notch. Returning characters make an appearance, new ones are introduced, and everyone gets a moment to shine, although little Jack-Jack steals the entire movie with his emotionally uncontrollable chaos. If there is a gripe here, it’s that this film treads very similar ground to the first. Nevertheless, Incredibles 2 serves up that smart, funny, and eye-popping spectacle that viewers have come to expect from the animation studio whose particular brand of humanistic idealism under the guise of family entertainment has few equals. Prescribe as needed.