Directed by and screenplay by Brad Bird. A Pixar release playing at Franklin Park, Fallen Timbers, Levis Commons, Bowling Green, Mall of Monroe, and Sundance Kid Drive-in. Rated PG for action sequences and some brief mild language. Running time: 118 minutes.
Voices: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, Huck Milner, Catherine Keener, Eli Fucile, and Bob Odenkirk.
Fourteen years after Pixar charmed audiences with The Incredibles, its frenetic blend of superhero angst and family dynamics, the sequel to that box-office hit arrives to find the world a very different place.
What’s a long-gestating project to do?
If you’re writer-director Brad Bird you try to tap into the zeitgeist, referencing contemporary concerns without stinting on the animated chaos. Upending gender stereotypes? Check. Suspicion of people who aren’t like us? Ditto. And let’s not forget a world obsessed with staying connected.
Incredibles 2 is a delightful movie, equal parts animated crime caper and not-so-thinly-veiled commentary on the lives we lead off screen.
Not that most kids or even many adult fans will notice. They’ll flock to theaters to savor the antics of the Parr family: Dad Bob (Mr. Incredible, voiced by Craig T. Nelson), Mom Helen (Elastigirl, Holly Hunter), and their kids Violet (Sarah Vowell), pre-teen Dash (Huck Milner), and infant Jack-Jack. Just your ordinary middle-class family, except that each has a unique super power.
The story picks up shortly after the first movie, now a time when superheroes have been outlawed and the Parrs have lost their home and moved into a budget motel. Dad is itching to best baddies again; mom just wants to raise some “normal” kids.
Enter billionaire pitchman Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) and his inventor sister Evelyn (Catherine Keener). They offer to bankroll the family if Elastigirl will front a crime-fighting campaign to redeem the outlawed heroes. The catch is that destruction-prone Mr. Incredible must stay home and rear the kids.
Trailer: Incredibles 2
Technology is the antagonist here in the form of the elusive ScreenSlaver, but not before director Bird has some fun dissecting the post-nuclear American family. Elastigirl exalts in being the family breadwinner, but she can’t stop feeling guilty for not being at home. And Mr. Incredible discovers that feats of strengths are no match for the problems of his kids (new math, boyfriend). He’s a comatose man walking by the end of his first day.
And then there’s Jack-Jack, the best addition — make that “expansion” — to the franchise. In the first film we saw a spark of his super ability. This time we get the full candlepower; laser-shooting eyes are just the tip of the iceberg. No parent will find his or her child nearly the handful after Jack-Jack throws his toddler tantrums.
If there’s room for criticism, the film’s 118 minute length can seem a bit long. And by making viewers quasi-complicit in the villainy — think Gameboys, smartphones, and 70-inch plasma TVs — Bird is preaching to the choir. Who can rationally argue that our digital addiction isn’t dehumanizing?
These complaints are negligible given what the writer-director gets right. Bird brings back some favorite supporting characters (Samuel L. Jackson’s Frozone, cranky costumer Edna Mode), and introduces a bevy of new superheroes. There may be no heart-tugging denouement here to rival Finding Nemo or Up, but there’s plenty of compensation: superb animation, enough laugh-out-loud moments to satisfy adults, and a cheeky disdain for intransigence.
As sequels go, Incredibles 2 lives up to its title.
Contact Mike Pearson at email@example.com or 419-724-6159.
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