Pixar is weird when it comes to sequels. For their more merchandise-minded franchises, they pump out new entries every couple years, to raid a new set of piggy banks. For their bigger individual offerings, though, they wait at least a decade. That creates a strange mix where expectations and box office takes look to be astronomical, but the film itself gets placed at a disadvantage. It happened before with both Monsters University and Finding Dory and is repeated again in Incredibles 2. That’s really a shame, because for all its slight faults, it reminds everyone why they fell in love with the original: heroics are always better, when family is involed.
In a bold move, that also feels like the only way to start a sequel like this, Incredibles 2 opens just moments after the last film ends. They quickly thwart The Underminor, but are met with disdain and anger from the local citizens. Their actions also cause the government program that helped protect them for so long to be shut down. Left with only a scant few belongings and holed up in a motel, things look dire for the Parr clan.
Enter William Deavor (Bob Odenkirk), the insanely rich CEO of a Global Comunications company. Imagine a skinnier, more PR savvy Bruce Wayne, who instead of becoming a vigilante wanted to help supers back out of the shadows. Turns out Deavor’s father was a big supporter of heroes back in the day, and by helping make them legal again, he feels that he’ll be doing his father’s legacy justice.
Much to Bob’s (Craig T. Nelson) surprise though, it’s not Mr. Increbible he wants at the forefront (for liability reasons) of his campaign, but Elasti-girl/Helen (Holly Hunter). By shifting the dynamic over to focus on her, the film not only gets a fresh coat of shiny paint, but also a whole new outlook. Not only is she striving to fight crime to help her fellow supers, but she hopes to prove a role model for females everywhere in the process. As daunting as the task may be, she finds support and camaraderie in the form of Deavor’s sister, Evelyn (Katherine Keener), who designed her new bike and a number of other exciting gizmos.
At the same time she’s pitted against a villain that comes off both as vaguely uninteresting and too overpowered. Screenslaver falls into the same unfortunate trap as most modern supervillains. They can sport a cool look and cause all kinds of havoc, but their endgames always feel too slight. Lex Luthor would scoff at the kinds of machinations at work here.
On Bob’s side, things initially threaten to spill over into Mr. Mom territory. It does makes a brief detour there, but his journey is cemented in a willingness both to help out a situation for selfish gain, as well as a genuine desire to grow closer to his family. Thankfully, it never makes mockery of child rearing. The struggle he faces in trying to prove he’s capable isn’t exactly normal, after all. Jack-Jack, the family’s youngest has a few, or 10, tricks up his sleeve, to make Bob’s life far more complicated than it should be. That’s to be expected, when the little tyke threatens to steal the whole film.
While it’s fair to say that Incredibles 2 is more of the same, that’s not a bad thing. At all. Instead it allows Brad Bird and company new avenues to explore, with a family dynamic that was already in flux. This extends to the action, of which there is a lot more. Not to get too much into specifics, but Helen’s chase through a busy city landscape is a wonder to behold. The same goes for a tussle between Jack-Jack and a raccoon. That may sound simple, but it may already be one of the best movie sequences of the year. To be honest, that’s because Jack-Jack steals the whole film.
Incredibles 2 is best when it’s focused on the family and heroes, getting bogged down ever so slightly when it comes to story mechanics. As big as some of the ideas it wants to touch upon are, they’re rendered through the same superhero machinations audiences have seen many times in the past decade. It’s the only major setback Pixar faces for taking as long as they did in making the film,. Where once comic-book movies were a curiosity, now they rule the day. That doesn’t stop Incredibles 2 from being a breeze. A slower midsection and somewhat bungled villain give it all a breather, before ramping up for a finale that, while small, ranks with some of the best modern comic movie set-pieces out there. The best family of superheroes is back. Here’s to hoping they don’t take over another decade to close out the inevitable trilogy.