While superhero saturation may be in full effect, it is virtually impossible not to fall in love with this beautifully animated and heartwarming movie. Brad Bird successfully borrows the best elements from his original masterpiece (the lore, the noir, the humor, Edna Mode!) and mixes them with fresh new elements, making Incredibles 2 feel both nostalgic and relevant. Unlike other sequels, Incredibles 2 doesn’t feel like a rushed job or a cash grab— it feels like a sincere effort to revisit the characters we fell in love with fourteen years ago, and give them even more room to grow.
Picking up right where the original left off, the Parr family springs into action to take down the Underminer, a mole-like villain who appeared in the final scene of the original film. Despite their attempted heroics, the politics of the first film have not been forgotten. Supers are still illegal and the Parrs are forced to relocate after they make themselves known to the city. But an opportunity for redemption emerges when tech-extraordinaire and Super super fan, Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk), offers his assistance. His plan is to increase public perception of Supers by showing their side of the story, mainly through the use body cam technology. He chooses Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) to pioneer this mission, leaving Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) on family duty.
This obvious role reversal is enough to differentiate the film from its predecessor and makes for an even more interesting story. Incredibles 2 offers us a lot more time with Elastigirl the hero and Mr. Incredible the father. Elastigirl’s new superhero gig serves as the primary dramatic arc for the film, while Mr. Incredible takes on the role of comic relief. Both characters adapt well to their new roles, but Elastigirl especially shines as the swashbuckling badass, often putting Mr. Incredible’s 2004 exploits to shame.
Another fun addition is Jack-Jack, the youngest of the Parr clan, who didn’t get a whole to do in the first film (other than save the day right at the end). This time around, Jack-Jack proves a valuable asset in both the comedic and dramatic storylines, as he is unquestionably hilarious and powerful. Other highlights include Michael Giacchino’s predictably infectious score, the added depth to its secondary characters (i.e. Violet, Dash, Frozone and, much to everyone's surprise, Tony Rydinger), and Brad Bird’s extraordinary direction. Bird proves to us, once again, that he is one of the best directors in Hollywood. Yes, Incredibles 2 is an animated movie, but that Brad Bird's direction is that good. The action set pieces in this film are flawless in design and execution— many of them even better than those in the original film. And where do we even start with the animation? It is perhaps one of Pixar’s most visually enticing films, a fact that is particularly noticeable during each of its elaborate action sequences.
While there is so much to love about Incredibles 2, there are some drawbacks. The theme is a bit unfocused, there are a few plot elements that are either forgotten or left hanging, and Mr. Incredible, the protagonist of the original film, never really gets his “time to shine” action-wise. The Incredibleshad Elastigirl swing into action to save Mr. Incredible on that mysterious island where she crept around the secret lair (and checked herself out in the mirror). Unfortunately, after spending a large portion of the film at home with the kids, Mr. Incredible never really gets his defining moment (a fact that is especially sad considering the film was released on Father’s Day weekend). But perhaps it is simply a testament to Pixar's greatness that the film is as good as it is without fully utilizing its most bankable character.
Coming fourteen years after the first film may seem daunting, but it really feels like the right time for an Incredibles 2. The animation and direction are better than ever, the voice acting and character work are still on point, and we get to focus on Elastigirl, arguably the most interesting character in the franchise. Though it never quite rises to the level of its predecessor, Incredibles 2 is non-stop flashy superhero fun and Pixar’s most accomplished sequel since Toy Story 3. ★★★★½