Brad Bird's 2004 classic "The Incredibles" can be deemed a groundbreaker for animation by now, right? Bird's tale of a family of superheroes that have to call it quits, due to all the collateral damage that comes in saving the world (just check the DCEU for proof), felt like a breath of fresh air and is one of the very best superhero movies of the modern era.
It took 14 years for this sequel to finally be released, and it picks up right where the original left off. The Parr family – mom Helen (voiced by Holly Hunter), dad Bob (Craig T. Nelson), 14-year-old Violet (Sarah Vowell), 10-year-old Dash (Huckleberry Milner) and scene-stealing baby Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile) – have to hold their heroics in check due to the state banishing crime-fighting. It doesn't take long for the world to need this family of Incredibles again as a villain named the Underminer (John Ratzenberger) becomes a major threat. The task isn't daunting for Helen, a.k.a. Elastigirl, who saves the day, and is now a worldwide celebrity. This has Mr. Incredible a little jealous and given the task of staying home to take care of his two restless teenagers, and Jack-Jack.
Telecommunications tycoon Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) notices the heroics and, whith the help of his tech sister Evelyn (Catherine Keener), launches a campaign, they want to "make superheroes popular again."
The James Bond-inspired score by Michael Giacchino is back for this sequel, so are beloved side characters of the original which include Lucius Best/Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) and legendary fashionista Edna Mode (Yes, Brad Bird voices her).
Another Pixar sequel we didn't need? Well, not necessarily. Bird ("The Iron Giant," "Ratatouille," "The Incredibles") is a world-class talent who seems to inject his own brand of subversive humor with anything he does. After all, he was one of the key creators, and later creative consultants, of some of the very best seasons of The Simpsons.
This is obviously not the kind of creative endeavor to dethrone the original's subversive satire of the American family, but Bird seems to realize that his film matters less and less as it goes along. That's OK. It's as if he's trying to make the best movie possible with a sequel we didn't necessarily need. The seven figure paycheck that he is receiving for this endeavor will surely be used for a greater purpose; the creation of his much-delayed passion project, "1906."
With all that being said, many of the pleasures that reside in "Incredibles 2" don't necessarily take place on the battlefield. No, the deepest, most complicated issues being dealt with here are set in another battleground: the family home. Violet has boy problems, Dash is just starting adolescence and Jack-Jack, well, the toddler is revealed to have deadly super-powers of his own. Jack-Jack's transformation is a total riot, one o the funniest sequences I've seen this year, but definitely not to Bob who has to deal with containing this shape-shifting, dimension-disappearing, pyro-making baby.
It's when Bird tries to depict family dynamics that his film is most successful, bringing in a humanism that no action sequence can bring. Dad is stuck playing Mom. or a Manny if you will, at home. As more and more men in American society are starting to stay at home to take care of the kids, and women begin to take advantage of the ever-increasing parity available in jobs these days, Bob's struggles will no doubt resonate with many of the men who will take their kids to watch the movie in a theater, while Mommy is out doing some work.
Don't mistake "Incredibles 2" for another "Montsters University," and "Finding Dory." Bird, a true visionary, never settles without a risk and "Incredibles 2," despite the flaws, and the predictable twist, is driven by Bird's wild imagination. A particular action-packed moment, which has Elastigirl trying to stop a runaway train, is incredibly choreographed by Bird and rivals the classic train-derailment sequence in "Spider-Man 2." That's the thing about Bird, he's a master at controlling the frame and giving us cohesively-rendered thrills (Think the meticulously choreographed cooking sequences in "Ratatouille," which evoked Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin at their slapstick best. [B]