A New Adventure, by Bob Connally

17 Jun

It seems hard to believe that 14 years have passed since Pixar released Brad Bird’s animated masterpiece The Incredibles. In fact, at least some showings of Incredibles 2 are preceded by a brief message from Bird and the main voice cast thanking the audience for their patience. It’s somewhat jarring then when the film picks up right where the first one left off, with the Parr family donning their costumes and masks to take on the Underminer (Pixar staple John Ratzenberger). Bird uses this immediate continuation of the story to his advantage giving this sequel a sense of instant momentum.

So called “supers” are still outlawed and the efforts of Bob “Mr. Incredible” Parr (Craig T. Nelson) and Helen “Elastigirl” Parr (Holly Hunter) are not appreciated by the higher legal authorities. After being told in no uncertain terms that their days of superheroics are over- seriously this time!- they find themselves taking their teenage daughter Violet (Sarah Vowell), tween son Dash (Huckleberry Milner), and baby Jack-Jack to a motel. The government will only pay for two weeks so Bob and Helen need to find work fast. Thankfully, a superhero loving tech magnate named Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) wants to bring Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl, and their old friend Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) back into the light and legalize supers the world over. Specifically, he wants Elastigirl to be front and center first, primarily due to her knack for saving the world while keeping property damage to a minimum. Helen is all too eager to step up and shine. Meanwhile, Bob is unsure of how to take on the role of being a stay at home dad (though the home Deavor provides them with is a palace).

Incredibles 2 flips the roles of Bob and Helen from the first film, which allows for greater character development. We see Bob grow as a character and a dad here in one of the better handled aspects of the movie, though Helen feels a bit underserved. While she does take the lead here it doesn’t feel like we get to know her much better than we already did. Still, the character is as engaging as ever, watching her in action- particularly on her motorcycle- is a lot of fun, and Holly Hunter’s voice work is excellent. Violet and Dash fall a bit into the same category as Helen. They are shaded in a bit though not developed much further than they already were. That said, like Helen these are characters we have come to care about and still enjoy spending time with.

The biggest weakness here is the motivation of the villain known as the Screenslaver. It’s not possible to truly elaborate on this as it involves major spoilers but suffice it to say the motivation is fairly weak making the character less intriguing as a result. It is not heinously awful on the level of Blofeld’s, “Daddy loved you more than me,” nonsense in Spectre. It’s just not terribly interesting or imaginative. This is less forgivable in a sequel that doesn’t need to establish its heroes from the ground up. A little more time should be spent developing a more fascinating villain.

Along with Bob’s character arc and the terrifically well realized action sequences, the other big strength of Incredibles 2 is its humor. Comedically this film is every bit as funny as the first thanks in large part to Jack-Jack and his new found powers taking a massive role. There is an extended sequence with him that I don’t want to spoil for you but it’s one of the funnier and more imaginative movie scenes of recent years. He also forges a special bond with super hero costume designer Edna Mode (voiced again by Brad Bird). Edna’s scenes are just as much of a delight as they were in the first movie and I am always left wanting more of her.

The Incredibles is my favorite Pixar film and would easily place on my list of top 50 favorite movies of all-time. There was a freshness to it that of course could not be replicated in a sequel. Wisely though, Bird doesn’t lazily try to replicate the original movie in other respects and I’m hard pressed to think of any call backs to jokes from it. He continues the story in a mostly satisfying way and delivers one of the more enjoyable movies you’re likely to see all year.

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