REVIEW – ‘Incredibles 2’

It’s finally here. The Pixar sequel fans have been demanding for the last 14 years. It’s a film many thought may never happen. It’s a sequel some even suggested didn’t need to exist. The Incredibles is considered by many to be one of Pixar’s absolute finest films. It’s no wonder the wizards of Emeryville have taken their time, especially after the slightly-disappointing Finding Dory, which was equally as delayed and anticipated. How do you deliver when expectations are so dizzyingly high?

But this is the studio that gave us the Toy Story trilogy, where each chapter miraculously raised the bar even higher than the masterpiece that preceded it. If anyone can deliver a supreme sequel, it’s Pixar. And, with Incredibles 2, they have absolutely delivered. This is everything fans could hope for. Every bit as entertaining, enjoyable, and joyous as the original, Incredibles 2 is a masterclass of cinema that proves a sequel can meet high expectations, and then some. They’ve actually pulled this off.

Picking up quite literally where the 2004 original film ended, Incredibles 2 throws us right back into the action, as The Incredibles (otherwise known as the Parr family) join forces to battle their latest adversary, The Underminer (perennial Pixar voice talent John Ratzenberger). With the assistance of their trusted partner Lucius Best/Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson), Bob/Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson), Helen/Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), Violet (Sarah Vowell) and Dash (Huck Milner) manage to save Metropolias from the Underminer’s wrath. But with government authorities still outlawing superheroism, the family are promptly arrested.

Let off with a stern warning, the Parr family are deflated to learn their actions have led to the Incredibles’ trusted advisor and identity protector, Rick Dicker (Jonathan Banks taking over from the late Bud Luckey) being forced to shut down his Super Relocation Program, leaving them to fend for themselves. But a lifeline soon arrives in the form of Winston and Evelyn Deavor (the ever-reliable Bob Odenkirk and a sublime Catherine Keener), a brother-sister duo who manage DEVTECH, a colossal telecommunications corporation. Winston, a lifelong “Supers” fanatic, is keen to see the end of Metropolias’ superhero ban and believes he can help make it happen.

Thinking an image makeover and some good PR will help change public perception, Winston suspects placing Elastigirl at the forefront of crimefighting is the wisest idea, given, historically speaking, she has caused less collateral damage than her somewhat-brutish husband. As Helen reluctantly heads off for New Urbrem to be the new superhero poster girl, this leaves Bob to adapt to his new role as Mr. Mom. Taking care of introverted Violet, boisterous Dash, and little Jack-Jack proves more difficult than Bob could imagine, especially when he discovers Jack-Jack is gifted with more superpowers than any other family member. And they’re completely out of control.

While Bob struggles with his new “single Dad” duties, even desperately turning to his child-loathing costume designer pal Edna Mode (another scene-stealing turn from Brad Bird) for help, Helen quickly thrives in her new role. She can’t help but enjoy the newfound liberation from the confines of parenthood and the chance to see Elastigirl take the spotlight usually reserved for her husband. But when a mysterious supervillain known as the Screenslaver (Bill Wise) begins to create chaos on the streets of New Urbrem, she may find going it alone isn’t the answer after all.

The crux of the sequel’s narrative naturally plays on the daring role-reversal of Mr. Incredible being side-lined in favour of his equally-talented-but-oft-overlooked wife taking centre stage. It’s a nice touch for the modern age to place a female superhero in the lead. It worked wonders (pun intended) for Wonder Woman, and it’s a decidedly refreshing change here too. Hunter takes the advantage given to her, delivering a stellar voice-over performance as a woman finally coming into her own. It’s the attention Elastigirl has clearly long deserved, and it’s the role audiences will naturally cheer for. And it obviously stands as a great message of female empowerment for viewers of all ages.

On the flip side, the manic homelife of Bob and the kids provide plenty of humour, with our beleaguered and exhausted dad hopelessly attempting to navigate the trials and tribulations of a stay-at-home-parent. A brilliant montage of the monotonous and repetitive daily parental routine that is rearing children will ring true for fatigued parents everywhere. While these situations are fairly cliché and expected, which is a little disappointing for Pixar, they come from an earnest and authentic place, potentially crafted by writer/director Brad Bird’s own experiences with parenthood. The big twist towards the climax is also painfully obvious from very early on, which, again, is less than expected from a studio so deft at defying presumptions.

Thankfully, these minor narrative missteps are washed away by Bird’s marvellous screenplay, filled with hilarious one-liners, fresh dialogue, and brilliant slapstick humour. Jack-Jack’s face-off with a wily raccoon is a hysterical triumph, and it’s no surprise the youngster rightly steals this entire film, particularly as his powers become more outrageous. We’re also introduced to a group of new superhero friends under Winston’s tutorship, whose powers are rather unique, to say the least. Brick from Wisconsin deserves his own spin-off immediately.

As with all Pixar films, Incredibles 2 looks and sounds stunning. The action sequences are gloriously animated with dazzling flair and thrilling spectacle. The exhilarating set-pieces rival anything Marvel can dish up, and that’s saying something. Ralph Eggleston’s beautiful production design work is just as wonderfully nostalgic and sentimental as in the original. And Michael Giacchino’s lively brass-heavy, James Bond-esque score is the perfect accompaniment, once again. Give him an Oscar nomination this time, please. Special mention also goes to the sound design team for one particular sequence where Jack-Jack disappears and you’ll hear his giggles in various speakers around your cinema, which is the perfect use of a surround sound system. It’s truly ingenious.

But the heart of Incredibles 2 is the Parr family, and the film stands as a wonderful example of the power of familial connection. Their interactions with each other are the real highlights, whether they’re bickering incessantly or providing the love and support we know is always hiding beneath the conflict. We see their deep insecurities and vulnerabilities, particularly in prepubescent Violet, and the subtext is as deeply layered and multi-dimensional as the original. And that’s the true victory of this sequel. It takes everything that was great about its predecessor and builds on those values further to deliver something that may even outshine what came before.

That’s a big call to make, but, somehow, Incredibles 2 feels more poignant, self-aware, and sophisticated than the original. And much more entertaining. It’s an absolute joy from start to finish. It’s able to hit the ground running and never look back. Like all of Pixar’s finest films, Incredibles 2 works for audiences of all ages. Parents will be as dazzled and delighted as their children. 20-somethings who were kids when the original came out will be swept right back into the film they fell in love with 14 years ago. It’s another home-run from the indomitable force that is Pixar, and stands as one of their absolute best and one of the best films of 2018.

★★★★1/2☆

Distributor: Walt Disney
Cast: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, Huck Milner, Samuel L. Jackson, Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks, Catherine Keener, Brad Bird
Director: Brad Bird
Screenplay: Brad Bird
Producers: John Walker, Nicole Paradis Grindle
Cinematography: Mahyar Abousaeedi
Production Design: Ralph Eggleston
Music: Michael Giacchino
Editor: Stephen Schaffer
Running Time: 118 minutes
Release Date: 14th June 2018 (Australia)

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