Incredibles 2 is more self-aware—and more importantly, more fun—than its live-action bretheren
There are perhaps few movies more feverishly anticipated than Incredibles 2, the sequel to Pixar's much revered classic The Incredibles. While Pixar was regularly putting out sequels to its other hit franchises, including Toy Story 3 and Finding Dory, animation fans were loudly pining for another adventure with their favorite super-powered family. Fourteen years later, Pixar has finally delivered with a sequel that captures the lighthearted fun of the original film and concurrently follows its own path, one that plays with ideas arguably bigger in scope than its predecessor.
Picking up immediately where the previous film left off, Incredibles 2 follows the heroic family the Parrs as they work with the Deavors (Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul and Catherine Keener, Get Out), a brother-sister duo who control a powerful telecommunications company, to rehabilitate the public image of superheroes and reinstate their legal status. Their marketing plan places the focus on Elastigirl, aka Helen (Holly Hunter, The Big Sick), leaving her to take on missions while Mr. Incredible, aka Bob (Craig T. Nelson, Parenthood), is left to take care of their difficult and equally powerful children. As Bob struggles to deal with the teenage angst surrounding her daughter Violet (Sarah Vowell, This American Life), the rambunctiousness and math struggles of son Dash (Huck Milner), and the burgeoning powers of baby Jack-Jack, Elastigirl begins to unravel a conspiracy involving a brainwashing villain known as the Screenslaver.
What makes Incredibles 2 stand out, like The Incredibles before it, is its ability to remember the joy of the superhero genre while still striving to find human themes within it. In the age of the superhero film, where Infinity War overstuffs and Justice League overbroods, it's refreshing to find a simple film that strives to balance fun and philosophy.
However, being a family affair, it's hard to shake the feeling that it's a little too big for its britches, often leaving its own themes left under-explored in the wake of its taste for flashy action. The film is playing with a lot of big ideas, ranging from gender roles in the domestic family to the complexities of hero worship, but the need to entertain often outshines the ideas it so desperately wants to explore. Subsequently, the emotional impact that often defines Pixar films can feel a bit muddled here as emotional beats are interrupted by another gag or effects display. Still, the difference between it and its live-action counterparts is that it actually manages to deliver its themes well, even if you're left wanting more.
A real quality of this film is Michael Giacchino's (Star Trek) score, which provides an air of freshness to every scene and truly makes the pacing and tone of the tone feel organic. It's a nice return to form for Giacchino, whose recent works (especially on Rogue One) have by and large been forgettable. Equally impressive is the cast, which is easily led by Hunter. As with all Pixar films, the actors breathe enormous amounts of life into their roles, bringing complex personalities that rival even the most committed of live action performances. Perhaps most amazingly is that baby Jack-Jack is the star of the show here despite having no real lines, with every joke and set piece related to his uncontrollable antics shining as some of Pixar's most creative work in years.
Incredibles 2 is ultimately a sequel that nearly lives up to the legacy the original film left behind, sometimes crumbling under the weight of its narrative goals and predictability but always revived by its well-conceived action, charming comedy, and lovable characters. It's not a masterpiece by any stretch, but it's undoubtedly a better and more aware popcorn flick than half of its superhero counterparts.