It’s not every sequel that picks up right where the first film left off. But leave it to the wizards at Pixar to come up with something fresh, especially in our sequel-saturated world.
You’ll be forgiven if you can’t recall exactly how “The Incredibles” ended back in 2004. It’s been a while. It took writer-director Brad Bird 14 years to concoct “Incredibles 2.” But the extra time was worth it.
Bird has delivered a sharply animated romp that reunites the original voice cast and stays true to the characters. In the midst of the #MeToo movement and the height of our digitally controlled lives, he also manages to score points for feminism and unplugging. Though not as captivating and clever as the first movie, “Incredibles 2” is a fun, action-packed family film that will become yet another smash for the Disney/Pixar empire.
When last seen, our superheroes were preparing to battle the Underminer, and “Incredibles 2” opens with the payoff of that sequence. Alas, the citywide fight does not end well for the gang, PR-wise, and they remain banished from public heroics. (Too much damage. Not enough bad guys apprehended.)
With their home destroyed, they end up in a dumpy motel. Mr. Incredible (voice of Craig T. Nelson) and Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) must strategize their next move with an eye on protecting their children, hyperactive Dash (Huck Milner), baby Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile) and eye-rolling middle-schooler Violet (voiced wonderfully by author and NPR regular Sarah Vowell).
Salvation comes from billionaire Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) and his inventor sister Evelyn (Catherine Keener). The Deavors want to bring superheroes back to the forefront and they tap Elastigirl as the best bet for winning over the public. With a body-cam attached to her super suit, she sets off on a series of well-publicized missions.
Elastigirl, with her stretching abilities and smarts, saves a runaway train and some hijacked helicopters and proves that she can succeed as well as, or better than, any male. She also confronts a new villain, Screenslaver, who is able to jam signals and hypnotize people. His motives are not entirely clear, but he does deliver a monologue about how pathetic humans are today, living virtually, watching everything on screens instead of experiencing real life.
Meanwhile, in a role-reversal twist, Mr. Incredible, with his intense brow and big slab of a jaw, is stuck at home (a flashy loaner from the Deavors) trying to navigate Violet’s adolescent moods, Dash’s maddening math homework and Jack-Jack’s diapers. He desperately wants to be out doing superhero work, but he also wants to prove to his wife that he can handle domestic drudgery.
When things go awry for Elastigirl, the family is able to swoop in, with an assist from their friend Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson). Incredibles fans will also be glad to know that diminutive fashion designer/genius Edna Mode (who looks like a miniature Linda Hunt but is actually voiced by Bird) returns to make a crucial contribution to the cause, and couture.
As with the first film, “Incredibles 2” boasts a unique retro look. Set in the early 1960s, it lovingly recreates the requisite cars, telephones and appliances. “The Outer Limits” and “Jonny Quest” play on TV.
As for the 14-year wait, Pixar likes to take its time with sequels. There was an 11-year gap between “Toy Story 2” and “Toy Story 3.” “Monsters University” arrived 12 years after “Monsters, Inc.” And we didn’t “find” Dory until 13 years after “Finding Nemo.”
Bird, who also gave us the fabulous “The Iron Giant,” and co-directed “Ratatouille,” has said that the Pixar animators had that much more time to learn and grow before working on “Incredibles 2.” But he is well aware of fans’ complaints about the long delay. So much so, that there is a live-action preamble attached to the film with Bird and the voice actors apologizing and explaining that these kinds of films take forever to make.
We get it. No apology necessary.
Directed by: Brad Bird
Starring: Voices of Holly Hunter, Craig T. Nelson, Samuel L. Jackson, Sarah Vowell, Huck Milner, Bob Odenkirk, Catherine Keener, Brad Bird.
Rated: PG GRADE: A-
Running time: 118 minutes