In case you forgot superhero movies can have happy endings
By Jason Wiese
What a perfect time it is to see America’s other favorite superhero family owned by Disney back in action. With films involving costumed avengers dominating the scene for years now, it would make sense for Pixar and writer-director Brad Bird to keep fans in anticipation until a time when the culture reflects an unprecedented passion for these kinds of characters, not that these particular characters were not beloved enough. While it is a blast to witness the return of Bob Parr, a.k.a. Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson), Helen, a.k.a. Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), Violet (Sarah Vowell), Dash (this time voiced by Huck Milner), Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile) and, of course, Lucius Best, a.k.a. Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson), the sequel to The Incredibles, which I believe is Pixar’s Citizen Kane, feels like a little too much of the same, but not enough of the same either.
Incredibles 2 picks up immediately after the 2004 original ended, which explains why Bob has not yet lost all his hair, Dash is still a rambunctious elementary school student, Violet is still navigating her way through high school and Jack-Jack is still an impossibly cute infant. However, even with the world owing its lives to the family, they are still forced to keep their powers a secret. But when Winston Deaver (Bob Odenkirk), a successful businessman with a nostalgic fondness for supers, offers Bob, Helen and Lucius a chance to win back the world’s approval, the gang is excited to relive the glory days again. But as a test run of this campaign, they first want to enlist Elastigirl to clean up crime, leaving Bob with unlimited family time.
Essentially, the film is a recreation of the original: a long-retired superhero is called back into action by a fan, the spouse stays home to take care of the children, the hero is put in jeopardy by a clever villain, the family eventually reconvenes outfitted in costumes and joined by Frozone and then all is right with the world, all with a lavish, golden-era aesthetic and jazzy score to rival Bond. The key elements that differentiate it from the first film are the refreshing decision to put Elastigirl at the center of the action with Mr. Incredible acting as stay-at-home dad, which supplies many of the film’s funnier moments, and an attempt to tackle family issues with more realistic solutions than the first one, admittedly. However, if it were not for the winning action sequences, endearing humor and, especially, Jack-Jack, who is still incomparably adorable even when his abilities turn lethal, it is hard to overlook when it often feels stale.
This is less a criticism and more of my own retrospective take on what the film could have been, but with the comic book genre being as culturally influential as it is today, and with many inventive takes on the formula popping up more often than one would expect, I feel that Incredibles 2 is a slight missed opportunity. If you think about it, The Incredibles is more like a spy movie with costumed metahumans than a real superhero movie, which at time like this would be the perfect time to put these characters in. Give them a whole new kind of threat beyond their control, raise the stakes a bit and instead of breaking the family up, put more focus on the family in costume than in the comfort of their own home instead of the derivative and predictable story it ended up being.
But, I cannot fault the film for not being what I was hoping to see, because I did enjoy what I saw. After 14 years, Bird and company have created a follow-up that is worth the wait and worth taking the whole family with you. It is not the best superhero film I have seen this year, but at least this one has a conclusion that will have you walking away smiling.