Heroes in Hiding: 'Incredibles 2' Review
The law may have forced the Parr family and all other Supers from crime fighting, but stopping bad guys remains in their blood. At the beginning of Incredibles 2, Bob "Mr. Incredible" Parr (Craig T. Nelson) and Helen "Elastagirl" Parr (Holly Hunter) attempt to stop The Underminer (John Ratzenberger) from robbing a bank. In spite of getting an assist from Lucius "Frozone" Best (Samuel L. Jackson), they don't succeed. While Frozone eludes the police, Mr. Incredible and Elastagirl don't, as unhappy officers arrest the pair. Their government contact, agent Rick Dicker (Jonathan Banks), bails them out and relocates them to a hotel. While there, they get a visit from wealthy businessman Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk), who admires all superheroes and has a plan to legitimize them once more. Bob, Helen, and Lucius meet with Winston and his tech guru sister Evelyn (Catherine Keener) about having one of them appear in costume when he unveils his company's state-of-the-art rail system. The Deavors agree the task should fall to Elastagirl. Something goes wrong at the unveiling as a culprit identified as Screenslaver has used the train's screen to hypnotize the conductor. Helen uses her powers to prevent injury and keep the damage to a minimum.
While Helen and Evelyn try and identify Screenslaver, Winston has given Helen and her family the use of one of his homes. Bob stays there, trying to address the parental responsibilities. He first encounters a problem when he learns that his daughter Violet (Sarah Vowell) has a crush on Tony Rydlinger (Michael Bird). Bob reacts by having Dicker erase parts of Tony's memory, much to Violet's disapproval. While older son Dash (Huck Milner) engages in typical boyish mischief, Bob finds himself facing bigger issues with younger son Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile and Nick Bird) as the infant demonstrates a range of powers. He takes the infant to Edna Mode (Brad Bird), who observes the child and fashions a suit to his powers. Screenslaver, meanwhile, tries to hypnotize an ambassador (Isabella Rossellini) aligned with Winston, but Elastagirl prevents that. Evelyn supplies Elastagirl a tracking device that gives her the ability to locate Screenslaver's signal, and captures someone she initially assumes is the villain. She learns too late why this suspect is not the person she seeks as Winston holds an important event on his yacht.
Incredibles 2 continues the run of Pixar sequels of some of their most popular animated features. I'm not a big fan of the Pixar sequels (save for the Toy Story franchise), but Incredibles 2, like most Pixar sequels, is a satisfying sequel from writer-director Brad Bird. There's no real suspense about the fate of the Supers, and the script begs some questions. For example, I don't understand why Winston would need Elastagirl for publicity, unless he though something would go wrong, as it did. Also, is this film set in the present day or not? The technology of Devtech suggests present day, but the cars shown here aren't the least bit contemporary. The Incredibles themselves aren't very original, as they have virtually every ability that the Fantastic 4 possess. Bird compensates, though, with a good sense of humor. Bob has his hands full keeping up with Jack-Jack as the little one grows more cognizant of the world and his ability to adapt to the situations he faces. One of his best moments comes as he playfully encounters an angry raccoon. Incredibles 2, in spite of the story issues, remains consistent with its basic premise of heroes using their powers with good intent.
Nelson and Hunter make for a good combination of brains and brawn in the leads, even though they work separately for much of the movie. They experience a role reversal of sorts as Bob becomes the domestic engineer and Helen takes the prominent role in the family's now-covert business. Odenkirk and Keener also have a strong chemistry as siblings who are like Bob and Helen. Evelyn is the problem solver, while Winston is the face of a company that innovates and serves people. He admires the Supers because they share the goal of advancement. Vowell and Milner are fun as as the Parr siblings, dealing with both school and the judicious use of their powers. The theatrical release of Incredibles 2 also includes a short entitled Bao, where an older woman grows unusually attached to a dumpling. The short does explain what is going on in this person's mind in a touching fashion.
The 2010s seem destined to be a period where sequels dominate the Pixar landscape. Incredibles 2 marks the sixth sequel from the studio (not including the upcoming Toy Story 4) as opposed to four new stories. It's been nice to revisit the characters that helped to make Pixar a leading name in the animation field. Incredibles 2, while enjoyable, shows the problem of returning to the material that worked well the first time. The initial entries tend to be a hard act to follow. In the years since viewers first met the Incredibles, Marvel has set a high standard for action heroes this collection of heroes can only dream of having. In the Pixar universe, though, the Parrs and Lucius enjoy a place among its most popular creations. They may bear some resemblance to Marvel's creations, but nobody can fight crime this family and their friend do.
On a scale of zero to four stars, I give Incredibles 2 three stars. No taking the fight out of these crime fighters.