3 stars (out of 4)
Nearly fourteen years have passed since The Incredibles soared into people’s hearts. Kids that devoured it on DVD are now adults content to Netflix and chill. An entirely new Pixar trilogy named Cars has come and gone. So did we really need another installment after such an extended hibernation period? The answer is probably not . . . and no matter! The fearless and peerless Parrs are here to rescue kids from a summer of movie doldrums in a smart, satisfying and super new adventure.
Despite the substantial of passage of time, the beauty of animation is that characters never have to age. (See: The Simpsons.) That means our family of kick-ass superheroes is exactly where we left them in the early aughts. Bob/Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson), and his lovely wife Helen/Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), are still trying to juggle crime fighting and domesticity. Their three cool kids, moody teen Violet (Sarah Vowell), rambunctious Dash (Huck Milner) and baby Jack-Jack add their own tricks to the mix. And no superhero movie is complete without the presence of Samuel L. Jackson, once again returning as Bob’s best friend Lucius/Frozone.
The Supers are a close-knit unit in a tough spot. Authorities are concerned by all the destruction in their wake even though they did it for the greater good. With the Super Relocation Program permanently shut down, the gang is once again forced to stick to undercover secrecy. Then they get the call of hope. A telecommunications tycoon (Bob Odenkirk) and his sister (Catherine Keener) want the heroes back in circulation. He proposes a publicity plan in which Elastigirl openly battles dangers in the city to regain the public’s trust and support.
Helen agrees to represent; Bob takes on the daunting task of take care of the homestead. And while his Mr. Mom antics provide comic highlights, her crusade is a doozey. The mission: Save the city of New Umbrem from Screenslaver, a mysterious villain that uses hypnosis to brainwash people. A simple pair of glasses can turn a civilian into a crazed, monotone would-be robot. Yikes!
Leave it to veteran Pixar writer/director Brad Bird to cook up a naturally progressive caper when he so easily could have settled on a serviceable one just to fill in the time gap. Or do a blatant rehash on the original narrative. Or rely on a slew of quippy pop-culture jokes. The studio’s visually dazzling, highly entertaining entries are consistently a cut above its animated peers — give me 15 Cars over one Trolls any day. But its sequels, from Monsters University to Finding Dory, tend to underwhelm compared to its brilliant predecessors. (The Toy Story franchise is the obvious exception.) The Incredibles 2 bucks the trend. Not only is the story fresh, it revisits old friends and delivers fleshed-out new characters. Keener and Odenkirk are impish good times. Baby Jack-Jack is the biggest bundle of fun. And Bird once again voices one of Pixar’s most scene-stealing characters.
No, it’s not as fantastic as the original. There’s more than a whiff of recognition to the wham-bam twists and turns. I’m convinced this is a side effect of dieting on a steady stream of Marvel flicks over the past decade. A secretly scheming do-gooder and superheroes gone rogue are unsurprising, if expected, plot beats. That doesn’t mean audiences won’t be enthralled watching those nifty action scenes — and delight in the concept of a family banding together to use their powers for good. Their adventures are timeless. And this one is worth the incredibly long wait.
The Incredibles 2 opens in theaters on Friday, June 15. Make sure to get there early to see the lovely Pixar short film, Bao.