Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Brad Bird
Stars: voices of Craig T Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L Jackson, Catherine Keener, Bob Odenkirk, Saraj Vowell, Huckleberry Milner, Barry Bostwick, Jonathan Banks, Eli Fucile, Michael Bird, Sophia Bush, Phil LaMarr, Brad Bird, Isabella Rossellini, Adam Gates, John Ratzenberger, Adam Rodriguez.
It’s been fourteen years since Pixar and director Brad Bird gave us The Incredibles, the animated film about the Parrs, a crimefighting family with super powers. The Incredibles grossed over $600 million at the box office, so it’s no real surprise that we get a sequel. What is surprising is that it has taken fourteen years.
Since then though we have had a surfeit of superhero movies, particularly from the Marvel Cinematic Universe school of CGI special effects and set pieces of massive destruction. Superhero fatigue was beginning to set in. Pixar has often grounded their animated films in personal and emotional stories with an understanding of family and relationships and strong moral values. Incredibles 2 gives us a slightly different take on the superhero movie as the family dynamics of the Parrs give the film a touch of warmth and good humour that has been missing from the live action superhero movies, and makes for a welcome change.
Incredibles 2 takes up almost immediately after the events of the first film and cuts straight to the action. Superheroes are still outlawed by the government who regard them as vigilantes that need to be restrained. But Mr Incredible (voiced again by Craig T Nelson) and Elastigirl (voiced by Oscar winner Holly Hunter) leap into action to thwart the supervillain the Underminer who is threatening the city of New Urbam. But when they leave a massive trail of destruction in their wake and fail to capture the criminal, the government again clamps down on superheroes. They shut down the Superhero Relocation Program, but their immediate boss and friend Rick Dicker (voiced by Jonathan Banks) relocates the Parrs to a seedy little hotel.
But then they are offered a chance at redemption when Evelyn and Winston Deavor (voiced by Catherine Keener and Better Call Saul’s Bob Odenkirk), a fabulously wealthy and technologically savvy brother and sister, throw them a lifeline. They have created a publicity stunt which they think will return superheroes to favour. They employ Elastigirl to spearhead a new organisation of wannabe superheroes to prove their value to society.
Of course, Bob is a little jealous of the opportunity afforded his wife, especially as he has to remain at home, playing mister mom. He has to help teenage daughter Violet (Sarah Vowell) deal with boyfriend pains and son Dash (Huckleberry Milner, replacing Spencer Fox) deal with homework, especially “new Math”. And he also has to cope with baby Jack-Jack as he discovers his nascent super powers – and there are lots of them. Jack-Jack’s powers add another clever dimension to the film. He finds domestic life more daunting than fighting crime.
When Elastigirl thwarts an attempt to hijack the inaugural running of a new superfast monorail, the future looks bright. Until the arrival of a new supervillain in the enigmatic Screenslaver, a state-of-the-art villain who uses hypnotism and mind control to enslave the city. His plan is to bend the superheroes to his will and destroy their reputations forever.
Not only has Bird directed animated films like the clever Ratatouille, he has also directed live action films like Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol, so he knows how to stage great set pieces. He maintains a fairly hectic pace throughout. There is plenty of action here, with some great and inventive action sequences that work better with animation. The antics of baby Jack-Jack provide plenty of comic moments that will amuse the younger audiences. But the mature themes of gender roles, family responsibility, societal apathy will resonate with older audiences.
However, the use of stroboscopic effects when Screenslaver hypnotises his victims has drawn some criticism for fear that the flashing light effects could trigger seizures in people. Cinema now carry warning to this effect.
Bird has assembled a strong vocal cast to bring the characters to life, with most of the original players returning for this sequel. Nelson brings the right amount of arrogance and a pompous quality to Mr Incredible, but there is also a hint of naivety as he struggles to deal with the problems of his children. Hunter exudes confidence as Elastigirl, while Samuel L Jackson again lends his distinctive vocals to the role of Frozone, their neighbour and superhero friend. Isabella Rossellini voices the Italian ambassador whose life Elastigirl saves on the runaway train, and Barry Bostwick (Spin City, etc) provides the voice of the city’s mayor, a clever in-joke for fans of his tv series.
Some of the colour scheme and the design of the film seems inspired by the 60s, and there are numerous references to iconic films and television series of the era that will appeal to older audiences. However, the climactic sequence seems unnecessarily long and drawn out, a problem with many live action superhero movies as well. Bird’s regular composer Michael Giacchino has provided the dramatic score that accompanies the action.
While not quite as fresh as the original film from fourteen years ago, Incredibles 2 is still an enjoyable and entertaining sequel that delivers.