Mrs. Incredible slays, Mr. Incredible stays home, and the kids are alright in Incredibles 2.
The Incredibles movies have an interesting relationship with fanboy culture. On one hand, fanboys’ cultivation of superhero mythology makes films like The Incredibles and Incredibles 2 box office hits. On the other hand, fanboys have a sense of ownership toward these characters that turns hostile if a film’s interpretation is not to their liking. Ask Star Wars fans. Fanboy billionaire Winston Deavor in Incredibles 2 wants to implement new laws making supers legal once more out of his admiration for them. Syndrome, another fanboy billionaire in The Incredibles, wanted to eradicate them because he felt slighted by Mr. Incredible when he was younger. Both films – notably Incredibles 2 – utilize this duality to their advantages in ways no superhero movie can.
Kicking off right where The Incredibles ended – fourteen years be damned – the Parr family takes on The Underminer (Pixar legend John Ratzenberger) in his ploy to rob a bank. This event catches the attention of telecommunications billionaire Winston Deavor (voiced by Bob Odenkirk, who is always welcome) and his tech-savvy sister Evelyn (Catherine Keener, who never disappoints.) Winston wants to use his PR/marketing clout to “bring supers back into the light.” Since no good deeds go unpunished, superheroes are still illegal, forcing the Parr family to remain hidden. “Politicians don’t understand people who do good because it’s right – it makes them nervous.” Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) is ready to reenter the spotlight, but the Deavors decide Elastigirl (Holly Hunter, crushing the role) a.k.a. Mrs. Incredible a.k.a. Helen Parr is the new face of their super renaissance. Mr. Incredible a.k.a Bob Parr has to stay home with the kids – Violet (Sarah Vowell), Dash (Huckleberry Milner) and baby Jak Jak. On Elastigirl’s first mission she comes across the subversive Screenslaver (good name) hypnotizing people through their screens, which is everyone. The ambiguous Screenslaver monologues about how by propping up superheroes, we weaken ourselves. This clever, seizure-inducing villain wants a call to arms to eliminate any need for superheroes. Screenslaver would have a point, but the ends don’t justify the means so it’s up to The Incredibles and Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson, of course) work to put a stop to it. Putting up the spoiler barricade right here.
Pixar delivers again with arguably the only sequel its fans truly wanted. It is worth the wait. The action, spearheaded by Elastigirl, is as good as any live action superhero movie you’ll see and the animation is beautiful. As with The Incredibles, the world of Incredibles 2 has a design that can only be described as the 1950’s version of the future – a unique blend of nostalgia and futuristic décor. Pixar keeps itself head and shoulders above the competition with artistic decisions like that. They add depth to the worlds they create.
Mr. Incredible’s domestic limitations (sounds better than “domestic disputes”) provide some of the biggest laughs. He’s more Bob here than iconic superhero – way out of his element. His mishandling of Violet’s teenage angst, Dash’s rebel streak, and keeping a close eye on Jak Jak gives him an added layer of sympathy of an overworked parent. Jak Jak testing out his many powers – which could make him probably the most powerful superhero in any universe – is nonstop entertainment (fingers crossed for a Pixar short film of Jak Jak versus the raccoon again.) Famed costume designer Edna Mode (voiced by writer/director Brad Bird) returns and is asked to babysit Jak Jak to give Bob a much-needed break. The family dynamic of the Parrs is what truly sets these films apart. There’s miscommunication, sibling rivalries, petty grudges, frustration, and, above all, love. It shined through in The Incredibles and it shines again here.
Brad Bird (The Incredibles and Ratatouille) claimed he didn’t want to a do an Incredibles sequel until the right story came along. In that time, the superhero movie culture has changed faces and speeds a few times over. Movies were considered too dark, then too jokey, then too similar, then too different. The superhero genre is in a perpetual state of being too something, according to nitpicking fans. And the Internet is awash with an endless barrage of superhero theories and takes that can best be described as “Why don’t you log off for a day or two?” The consensus is . . . no one allows there to be a consensus. You have your Syndromes and your Winston Deavors going head-to-head over what’s considered good and bad. So where’s the right story for a superhero sequel fourteen years after the original with all that noise going around?
Luckily for Bird, The Incredibles is a creation all his own; he doesn’t have to adapt the story from any other source material. He can do crazy things like have Mr. Incredible take a backseat to Mrs Incredible. Imagine that. And, much to the chagrin of the most misogynistic of fanboys, it works terrifically. There isn’t an action highlight in Incredibles 2 that doesn’t involve Elastigirl. It’s mirroring The Incredibles when it was Mr. going on solo missions while the Mrs. was at home with the kids. Now she’s the one stopping runaway trains. It may have been only a few days for Elastigirl to out-matriarch the patriarch in the Incredibles universe but it took over a decade in ours. Good on Brad Bird for being patient, keeping with the times, and staying off the Internet.
Why you should see this movie: It’s Disney/Pixar so it’s a near-guarantee you’re getting an excellent movie (even their lesser efforts are still halfway decent.) The animation, action, comedy, drama, and the family that ties it all together charm you from beginning to end. The villain Screenslaver’s very meta motivation speaks volumes about the current culture of superhero movie fandom. Pixar is a studio full of storytelling gurus who can philosophize to you while entertaining you. It’s not everyday filmmakers can do both. Incredibles 2 transcends animated summer movies for the family – it has something to say and it makes you feel incredible for having heard it. See it twice.