Incredibles 2 lightens the mood in a world gone super-serious

By Jim Slotek

Rating: A

There’s a lot of “better than the original” being thrown around in describing Incredibles 2, the literally-long-awaited (14 years) sequel to Brad Bird’s 2004 Oscar-winning animated feature.

I’m going to say it’s every bit as good as the original, but it may seem better because we’ve caught up to it.

Disney Pixar’s The Incredibles came out in a different world. Superheroes hadn’t yet eaten the multiplex (there was no Iron Man, Thor or Avengers), and its theme and moral were prescient, though we didn’t know it.

The film’s “real world” comic conceit, that superheroes may in fact be more trouble than they’re worth given the property damage and destruction that seems to follow them around, was entertaining. Since then, it’s been absorbed as a serious plot-point by The Avengers and by the SECOND interim franchise incarnation of Superman, to the extent that Incredibles 2 plays like deliberate satire instead of the continuation of a great premise.

 Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) does PR for the cause of "supers," while Bob plays househusband

Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) does PR for the cause of "supers," while Bob plays househusband

Despite the time elapsed, Incredibles 2 opens literally where the previous film left off, with the mole-like supervillain The Underminer on the loose, superhero activity outlawed by international agreement, and Bob and Helen (voiced by Craig T. Nelson and Holly Hunter) – a.k.a. Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl – trying to raise their family as inconspicuously middle-class as possible.

(As a fan of puns, full props to Bird or whoever comes up with names like The Underminer and the Internet surfing hypnotic super-villain called The Screenslaver).

Said family includes suddenly boy-crazy teen Violet (Sarah Vowell) and Dash (Huck Milner), and baby Jack-Jack, whose nascent superpowers were hinted at in the first film, but come to fruition in this one. Add to the mix Bob’s best friend Lucius – a.k.a. Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson).

As if to underscore the reasonableness of the anti-superhero laws, the family and Frozone succumb to temptation to have another go at The Underminer after he swallows a bank into a sinkhole. The resulting above-ground carnage rivals the climax of the original Avengers.

All of which leaves our hero family doubly-guilty and living in a motel under house arrest.

Enter a billionaire brother-and-sister (Bob Odenkirk and Catherine Keener), who’ve made it their business to get the anti-hero laws overturned, and bring countless wannabe superheroes out of hiding.

The introduction of these “newbies” (all of whom worship our heroes) is where Incredibles 2 seems most deliberately satirical. Once you’ve brought together characters like Voyd (Sophia Bush), Krushauer and Helectrix (both Phil LaMarr) and, um, Reflux (Paul Eiding), thoughts of Dr. Xavier’s Academy are unavoidable.

The PR entry-point to making "supers" acceptable again is Elastigirl, the least destructive (according to the cost-analysis spreadsheet) of the Incredible family. While she returns to action, erstwhile action-man Bob has to play house-husband, looking after the kids, with domestically disastrous results.

If Incredibles 2 now seems like one big sly wink, it fulfills its action mandate better than ever. Yes, there is massive destruction of the sort we’ve become accustomed to, but it is overshadowed by, for example, baby Jack-Jack’s full-out superpowered showdown with an angry and determined raccoon. To my mind, it’s the best fight scene in the movie.

Which brings us to the public service I feel every kidflick review should provide – a child-meter. There were some rambunctious kids at the screening I attended, and they fell into enthralled silence, punctuated by laughs. Bird is at the top of his game, balancing action and slapstick in a sea of colour.

Incredibles 2 is a movie that could have been made redundant by time. Instead, it lightens the mood in a world gone super-serious.