Just as good as 1.
Director: Brad Bird (Iron Giant)
Cast: voices of Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter
Runtime: 1 hr 58 min
by John DeSando
In Incredibles 2, how does writer/director Brad Bird make a family film that is adventure, thriller, and comedy? Well, he’s had practice beginning with Iron Giant and Ratatouille and The Incredibles in between. With three distinct approaches to entertainment, he has made a reputation of smart and fun and plain genius.
Incredibles 2 is super family fun as the family picks up where they left off, specifically leaving a track meet and pursuing The Underminer (John Ratzenberger), who is digging under the city with a giant corkscrew. The importance of this successful sequence is that it’s the first time for the family to work as a team in public.
It’s a regular family going through growing pains and a superhero family trying to reconcile its gifts with a society that the rules against them. That’s right, super heroes have been outlawed because they’re perceived as adding to the troubles. The answer lies in pursuing the law and changing it more than fighting a strange villain called The Screenslaver, who hypnotizes while the monitors are watched.
Obviously, a subtheme of this multilayered allegory is the enslavement of the populace to it screens. Yet, Bird does not enslave the audience to theme, e.g., a race sequence in which Elastigirl, Helen Parr (voice of Holly Hunter), chases a hover train heading to destruction is as furious a ride on a motorcycle as ever seen on screen.
Not all is heavy-duty: Baby Jack-Jack fights a raccoon, funny in himself, with baby showing hitherto unknown powers. The sequence is high humor using a baby as a rib-tickling comedian-hero. Add to this slapstick the light orchestration of composer Michael Giacchino and there is sci-fi animation with soul.
That’s the irony of this inspired animation and real life--sometimes even the good has to fight to be recognized, or to be legitimized: “You know it's crazy, right? To help my family, I gotta leave it. To fix the law, I gotta break it.” (Helen Parr) Incredibles 2 is primarily about bringing back heroes to the public fold and figuring out how to break the law in order to fix it.
Furthermore, what’s a super mom to do when duty calls and she must leave the family under the untrained care of dad, Bob Parr/Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson). Bird doesn’t make Bob a boob (although there are laughs at his expense), but rather has the rest of the family pitch in to help with major challenge, baby Jack-Jack, with hitherto unknown super powers.
Bird recognizes the need for dads to fit in the management of the house, for instance, as he tries to untangle a mess with daughter Violet’s (Sarah Vowell) date, who discovers she’s a superhero. He misses their date, and dad must do some intricate counseling of his head-strong daughter. Even for a superhero, that’s a tough challenge.
But the super heroism most prominent is Mom's, a good an example of the best of #MeToo that allows a woman to be empowered publicly and fulfilled privately, with a little help from her family.
Although Incredibles 2 seems to replay bits and motifs from 1, and some of the themes are way too obvious, it remains one of the best animations ever, and one of the best films of the year.
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com