“Incredibles 2” review Long-awaited sequel pays fan service while being somewhat original

I think I’m one of the very few people who was NOT thrilled to hear that Brad Bird’s 2004 masterpiece, “The Incredibles,” was receiving a sequel. Fans wanted it from the beginning, and the animated superhero classic obviously warrants a continuation. But for me (and probably most), Pixar was a leg higher than the rest of ambitious animation studios which churned out sequel after sequel. With the exception of the flawless “Toy Story” franchise, Pixar just didn’t do sequels; they came up with purely original ideas – until 2011, when the dismal “Cars 2” (John Lassester and Brad Lewis) was released. “Incredibles 2” was therefore inevitable, and as much as I hate to admit it, it’s the only sequel fans asked for. The 2004 original tempted it so badly, and neither the “Cars” sequels nor “Finding Dory” (2016, Andrew Stanton) lived up to Pixar’s former glory. To my surprise and delight, “Incredibles 2” is smart, stylish, relevant, and semi-original. It doesn’t ruin the first, which was my main fear. 

In an age where superheroes rule every screen and occupy every sector of the human mind, “Incredibles 2” is a timely film. And I’m not referring just to 2018. The Incredibles universe is supposed to take place in the early 1960s, where comic book heroes started to find places on both the big screens and small screens at home, and in this film, real superheroes are banned from fighting crime. The Parr family hid in the first film so diligently (well, Mrs. Incredible did anyway) because the law stated so. That is fleshed out fully in this sequel, as Mr. and Mrs. Incredible (voiced by Craig T. Nelson and Holly Hunter) join an organization that fights for the rights of “supers.” Their daughter Violet (Sarah Vowell) references the fact that superheroes are popular in school, and being the 60s, there are looming global threats (not addressed in the movie, but automatically linked with the era anyway). This all comes together quite well for the movie itself, and released now, it is relevant.

From left: Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson), Elastagirl (Holly Hunter), and Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) listen to a sales pitch from business executive Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) and his sister Evelyn (Catherine Keener).

The movie’s main villain, the Screenslaver (Bill Wise) has a point within his many monologues (as if his name wasn’t relevant enough). He criticizes the populace for being so obsessed with the fictional heroes on their screens, and correctly asserts that no one looks to do anything for themselves; they’re waiting for something magical to happen in their fantasy worlds. Sound familiar? Unfortunately, the film doesn’t necessarily do anything with this interesting premise, as it becomes a cheap way to channel a character’s personal hatred towards superheroes. Without giving too much away, I’ll just say the “twist” is predictable and slightly disappointing.

What’s not disappointing though is the amount of appropriate fan service in this sequel. “The Incredibles” is a crowd-pleaser of a film, and its sequel consequently needs to warrant applause – perhaps even more. And it delivers. Mostly through humor, the Parr baby Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile) receives a wonderful inclusion as a legitimate superhero by expanding his powers. Edna Mode (Brad Bird himself) delightfully relives her role as the family’s supersuit stylist, and more references to the first film are peppered throughout. It’s so very satisfying to hear the laughter and squeals of excitement as this movie progresses. A note to my future self: have your kids wait 14 years between multiple viewings of the first “Incredibles” and “Incredibles 2.” It’ll be worth it.

As the trailers for “Incredibles 2” started popping up everywhere, we all noticed that the animation was slightly off. And indeed, it is very different. The film seems to literally pop off the screen like a comic book, casting aside the sleek James Bond look of the original for a blatantly cartoonish style. At first, I was taken off guard, but it quickly grew on me. This is an undeniably fun film to watch, even more than Spielberg’s “Ready Player One.” Certain effects (such as a character shooting electricity) look 2 dimensional, and they stand out in the best ways. There’s a fight about halfway through that takes place in a screen filled room, and though I have to warn that its literal flashy nature can cause seizures (I’m absolutely serious), it’s my favorite action sequence in the film. It’s intense and so intricately animated that I was sold on this film’s move to be more eclectic in its style.

Scored by Michael Giacchino, the movie uses most of its original and iconic score, but with snippets of new work and and exciting crescendos to heighten the action. Giacchino is a genius in his own right, and I’m so glad he remained attached to this project.

Ignoring some instances of sloppy writing and weak dialogue, “Incredibles 2” is worth the watch, and a definite crowd-pleaser. My faith in Pixar sequels is finally starting to rise.

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