‘Incredibles 2’ Amplifies Everything From Predecessor, Mostly for Better

by Eric Melin on June 12, 2018

in Print Reviews,Reviews

[Rating: Solid Rock Fist Up]

Writer-director Brad Bird exhibited his knack for staging exciting, high-velocity live-action action sequences in 2011’s Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, but I forgot until I revisited 2004’s The Incredibles last week how much amazing animated action he had already concocted there as well.

In fact, The Incredibles (Bird’s debut for Pixar) is essentially Watchmen for the whole family, a simple plot used as an excuse to prop up its very frequent and impressive high-flying action scenes. It’s breezy, clever fun but it doesn’t have the emotional weight that many of Pixar’s best films are known for.

By that token, Incredibles 2 one-ups the original in almost every way. It still doesn’t carry a lot of deep investment or tearjerking resonance, but the action is more thrilling, the animation and production design is more detailed, and it’s just plain funnier than The Incredibles. This new souped-up hot rod of a sequel especially puts the live-action superhero movies of today on notice in the way that it creates and maintains easy-to-follow lines of motion and sequential cause-and-effect at impossibly high speeds.

The downside: At just under two hours, is there such a thing as too much action? Well, maybe.

Anyone who saw the first movie is already fairly invested in the Parr family of “supers” – Mr. Incredible (voiced by Craig T. Nelson), Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), 14-year-old Violet (Sarah Vowell), 10-year-old Dash (Huckleberry Milner) and baby Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile). Incredibles 2 picks up right where the last one left off, as the family must fight a literal-minded supervillain called Underminer (John Ratzenberger), who digs underground to topple tall buildings.

Afterwards, it’s back in hiding, as supers are still banned from using their powers in this retro-sci-fi alternate version of America. The fictional setting, of course, allows Bird (the writer-director of The Iron Giant and Tomorrowland) to indulge his fetish for 60s Bond movies, Beatnik fashion, and Art Deco as well. Once the family is settled again, however, Bird recycles the main conflict of The Incredibles — a mysterious rich person says he wants to help the superhero cause — only flipping it, so that Elasticgirl gets to cavort around in tights while Mr. Incredible stays home with the family. (This plot similarity isn’t a deal-killer, but it is made worse by a third-act reveal that is as similar to the first film as it is predictable.)

To Bird’s credit, the domestic chaos with Mr. Incredible produces some of the funniest scenes in the film, and not merely because they are poking fun at the gender reversal and how unprepared dad is to handle the rigors of caring for a baby. Instead, Bird achieves slaphappy absurdity with Jack-Jack’s seemingly random superhuman flare-ups and gets great mileage out of dad’s genuine effort and how bone-tired and drained he becomes. How many parents have been so worn out that it seems like their child has teleported form room to room or morphed into an actual demon, like Jack-Jack does? A fight the baby has with a raccoon is both dangerous and hilarious, achieving the best sight gags this side of Looney Tunes.

One of the plans that billionaire Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) has to sway public opinion back in favor of the supers is to attach miniature cameras to their costumes as they perform feats of derring-do so the public can see just how special and wonderful they truly are. It’s an interesting echo of today’s ever-present dashboard cams, selfie culture, and mobile-phone Facebook Live broadcasts. The villain, a masked figure named Screenslaver, is against heroes because he thinks the public should ditch their screens and do something about crime and injustice in their own neighborhood rather than waiting for supers to fix everything. It’s not a subtle metaphor, but a timely and important one for the world today.

There are so many reasons to love Incredibles 2. The inventive choreography, animation detail, and stylish production design beg to be seen on the big screen. This is definitely a see-in-the-theater movie, and it’s laugh-out-loud funny at times. And some of the story’s bigger themes are right on the money. If the plot hadn’t felt like a major recycling of the 2004 movie, it would have more of an element of surprise, but there’s plenty outside the story’s mechanics left to delight.

Eric is the Editor-in-Chief of Scene-Stealers.com and writes the Screen Stealers column for The Pitch. He’s President of the KCFCC, and drummer for The Dead Girls and Ultimate Fakebook. He is also Air Guitar World Champion Mean Melin. Eric goes to 11. Follow him at:

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