The wait is over! We finally have a sequel to The Incredibles, even as we never thought we’d actually see the continuation of the Parr family’s story. Even better, it is helmed by the original film’s director, Brad Bird, and if anything, this film shows the brilliance of the original wasn’t just some fluke. Sequels often pale in comparison to the original, but here, we have a movie that is every bit as noteworthy and worthy of accolades. I would even say that this one has more to say about society in general and is much more topical to the now, and those are the points that may cause some viewers to find issue with it, as opposed to the almost timelessness of the original.
This time around, Bob/Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) and Helen/Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), along with Lucius/Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson), are enlisted into a top-secret initiative spearheaded by Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) and his sister, Evelyn (Catherine Keener). Winston believes in what heroes can do, and he wants them serving out in the open and not in government-sanctioned seclusion. Helen is tasked with leading the efforts solo for the time being, leaving Bob at home to be “Mr. Mom” with the kids. Bob quickly finds his hands full with boy trouble for Violet (Sarah Vowell), math troubles for Dash (Huck Milner), and a whole host of troubles for Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile). Meanwhile, Helen finds that the newest supervillain, The Screenslaver, may be a bigger threat than she initially thought him to be.
The original cast returns as if it all happened yesterday, and the results are near perfection. Dash is voiced by a different actor now, likely due to age, but you’d seriously have to check the credits to find that out, as he continues that part without a hitch. Rick Dicker is back as well, but this time, he’s voiced by Jonathan Banks, as Bud Luckey died earlier this year; the transition wasn’t as smooth as Slinky Dog in Toy Story 3, but it’s not distracting. Nelson and Hunter have such a rapport as Bob and Helen that comes across, and the new ways these two are tested make for incredibly fun times. I loved Jackson before as Frozone, but he really gets to own the role here, with powers and personality on full display. New additions like Odenkirk and Keener bring the goods that those who follow their careers have come to expect. Oh, and you didn’t think I’d forget about Jack-Jack and Edna Mode (voiced impeccably again by Bird)? I didn’t, and you won’t either. These two almost steal the movie, and I want a series of shorts with these two right at the center ASAP, darling.
The film really was far funnier to me than the original. Explaining why gives too much away, but whereas the original sprinkled in humor as it went along, it seems as though this time around, Bird knows there is just so much more fodder for laughs that is here that he relishes in it far more than the original ever did. I was undeniably more entertained this go-round than the first; maybe the new situations were closer to home with my family today than when I was watched the first, unmarried and not a parent back then. The nuanced moments that are animated here around the dinner table had me cracking up with belly laughs at how perfectly real they are.
That Underminer cliffhanger fourteen years ago creates the perfect hook here for an incredible opening action sequence, and it plays out even better than I, personally, imagined it; after some slight plot-point setup in a cold open intercut with credits like the original, the film is off with the same energy that was so well-loved before. Even after almost a decade and a half of superhero franchise films from a number of directions and film styles, it’s refreshing to see the gang back together here and capable of instantly dazzling us in impressive ways. The team aspect of powers working in conjunction is honestly no better on film thus far than some of the stuff we see here. Bird just nails the pacing and framing of scenes throughout in ways that always seem to heighten audience investment. Nothing’s changed in this department after all this time, and that’s indeed a great thing!
Michael Giacchino has notable billing on the film’s poster, and his score proves why. He continues the 60s spy film flare, and in my initial viewing of this film, I was impressed with how effective it is, without drawing attention to itself. Like the shot composition and pacing, it all works in line with establishing a style that is uniquely suited to the Incredibles. Without venturing too far into SPOILER territory, there are other new costumed heroes in this film (eagle-eyed viewers likely pieced this together from the trailers), but while they are vibrant reflections of Silver-Age comics, the actual characters don’t get too many opportunities to make deep impressions. We know the personalities of the Parr family and Lucius because they are integral to these films, but these new characters aren’t given too much in the way of dialogue and slow-moments to make a lasting impression. Maybe (if it isn’t another decade-plus), a possible Incredibles 3 would give some a reason to come back and matter more as characters.
Content-wise, I’d say that while both Incredibles films are framed with mature sensibilities, this installment had much more unnecessary language; my review of the first highlighted the several instances of “God” uttered by characters. That all continues here, but some mild cursing is here as well. Be mindful that we aren’t talking PG-13 level language, but it did feel unnecessary here, and I know many parents who have already voiced their displeasure with this here. I’m with you all, but I compare it to those who haven’t watched to what you heard in the Shrek films. The PG is there for a reason, so if any language is a deal-breaker, you’ll have to look elsewhere. The 60s-style cocktail party in the film places two characters together drinking alcohol; I get it, as it fits the motif, but it did stick out as worth mentioning. Sexual content is non-existent, but of course, superheroes and villains bring out the rock-em, sock-em violence; no blood, but punches fly aplenty and there are some scarier moments this time around. I didn’t notice any content that was blatantly non-Christian, so no worries there.
WARNING: While it isn’t a first, it is worth noting that those with photosensitivities may want to consider that this film has many sequences with flashing lights, really more than any other movie I can recall. It’s dazzling in its own way, but it can potentially be problematic for some.
There are some great reflections here about the ways families have flip-flopped roles for parents, and while on a practical level it gives familiar characters new things to do (a necessity for any good sequel), it also reminds us of why we fell in love with these characters in the first place. The Parrs are a believable family, and that’s always been key; they are just like all of us, yet they just so happen to have superpowers. While the expert crafting of action sequences is exhilarating to watch, my primary enjoyment was the situation comedy that comes out of the moments at home. I live those, and I love those.
I was impressed also by how philosophical this movie got about society’s need for heroes. Are they good or bad? There was nothing too hamfisted in these questions or those relating to our current tech/screen obsessions, even if they are extremely necessary today. I watched the original with a Nokia prepaid phone in my pocket in 2004; I watched this one with a bombardment of text messages and notifications vying for my attention. Times have changed greatly between films, but this one bridges the gap so smoothly, that you’d never think that the original could have fit perfectly decades ago, while this one addresses the most current of issues that weren’t even known then with a sense of retro flair. It does all of this while making kids of all ages laugh and dazzle at sight and sound, and that is worthy of high praise.
All in all, I loved this movie. The animation, while more detailed now, only advances in ways that seem a natural extension of what was striven for in the original. Several scenes are reanimated here to bridge the gap, and those prove that while things are sharper now, the animation never belittles what came before it. The film’s length is comparable to the first, which makes it a long haul for animation; still, you’ll be having so much fun you won’t notice, unless you have a squirming young one (which I did). Parents may have issues with the mild language, and I get it. Be aware of it going in, and adjust your viewing plans accordingly. If you must, go see it first without your kids to feel it out. I’m fairly certain you won’t be the only adults there and you’re likely to have a blast. I place this right up there even with the sequel, and who knows? It may even be better than the original. This is a film that has something for almost everyone! See it, and see it again!