June 13, 2018

CINEMA | 'Incredibles 2' Feels Like Familiar Family Fun

"Suit up! It might get weird."
Craig T. Nelson Brad Bird | Incredibles 2

Fourteen years later, Pixar Animation and writer/director Brad Bird pick up exactly where they left off with the original superhero family adventure sequel, Incredibles 2. By tackling the ordinary, the delightful but muddled film very much explores domestic stress exaggerated through superpowers and dastardly evil plans.

Once again, the voice cast is predictably outstanding with Holly Hunter and Craig T. Nelson as Elastigirl and Mr. Incredible grounding the super Parr family while Sarah Vowell and Huck Milner keep a youthful spirit as their invisible and fast kids, Violet and Dash.

Newcomers Bob Odenkirk and Catherine Keener play an oddball brother and sister pair of tech entrepreneurs who back the Incredibles in support of their quest to legalize superheroes. Their superficial inclusion feels like a weaker element that hinges on them helping to combat a particularly dumb evil plan despite both their dynamic vocal performances.

A boisterous Samuel L. Jackson returns as the perfect frozen sidekick, Frozone, who just shows up to make waves or add some comic relief. However, baby superhero Jack-Jack easily steals the film with many playful scenes of physical animated humour including an extended fight with a raccoon.

Craig T. Nelson Brad Bird | Incredibles 2

What's most remarkable about the sequel is just how good it looks as computer-generated animation has improved by leaps and bounds, especially for rendering human characters. Bird's eye for action and design, heightened by Michael Giacchino's propulsive musical score, have also surely advanced with his foray into live action direction. The Rockwell retro-futuristic sheen feels particularly more welcome in its stylishness fourteen years later.

Despite the very much desired elements of the Incredibles family, the storytelling doesn't quite match the original's tight, compact pedigree. The mostly absent villain Screenslaver, who controls people's minds through screens, is a fairly weak metaphor for our dependence on technology and other half-baked themes about family, gender roles, and stereotypes feel undercooked at best.

Some scenes feel fleeting and disparate from the half-baked plot where the first villain—the Underminer seen at the end of the first film—shows up and is completely forgotten without any resolution. The climactic battle on a boat veers into the usual superhero bloat with some annoying tropes and battles that just aren't particularly fresh.

Incredibles 2 is undeniably joyous fun with some truly dazzling choreographed action that's exhilarating and inventive. Bird reaffirms his mastery of visual storytelling through big characters and smaller conflicts yet it never reaches the same highs despite some truly thrilling action and set pieces. It falls short of being incredible.

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