Friday, June 15, 2018

Review | Incredibles 2 | 2018

It's been 14 years since The Incredibles first introduced us to the Parr family, a family of superheroes living in a world where "supers" have been made illegal. Incredibles 2 picks up exactly where the original film left off, with Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson), Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), Violet (Sarah Vowell), Dash (Huck Milner), baby Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile), and their friend Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) doing battle against the Underminer, a nefarious villain bent on robbing the city's banks from underground. Unfortunately, the heroes do almost as much damage as the villain in their attempt to stop him, turning public opinion against the very idea of superheroes, and once again forcing them underground.

They are soon approached by Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) and his sister, Evelyn (Catherine Keener), two millionaires with a soft spot for superheroes, who want to start a PR blitz to change the hearts and minds of the world and get superheroes legalized again. There's only one catch; to start out they only want the least destructive member of the Parr family - Elastigirl. So while Mr. Incredible stays home to raise the kids, Elastigirl heads off to fight crime, but it isn't long before a new threat rears its ugly head, one that wants to humiliate all superheroes on a world stage, and take them down once and for all.

A lot has changed about the moviegoing landscape since the Incredibles were last on the screen. Superhero movies now litter the multiplex, and the idea of a crime fighting family no longer feels like a novelty. But trust Disney and Pixar to show that the genre still has something to say, because Incredibles 2 an endless delight. While it sacrifices some of the thematic resonance of the original for more slam-bang action sequences, Incredibles 2 still manages to explore ideas of gender inequality, fragile masculinity, and familial relations within the context of an animated kids movie.  The villain, Screenslaver, uses screens to turn his victims into mindless zombies, demonizing an entire group of people (in this case, superheroes) in order to persuade politicians to legislate bigotry.

Yes, the Incredibles have entered the Trump era. Whereas the first film dealt with the idea that if everyone is special then no one is, Incredibles 2 turns its eye on the irrational fear of the other. While its message gets a bit muddled in its attempt to be too many things at once. The idea of being a slave to our devices is a potent one, but that's not the villain's ultimate goal. Ultimately, it has too much going on to give any of its themes more than passing lip service, hewing close to the studio's established formula in its character beats and plot twists. Yet in true Pixar fashion, it manages to deliver a good time anyway, making it a cut above other Pixar sequels like Monsters University and Cars 2 and (and maybe just a step below Finding Dory).

Rather than trying to lampoon the recent superhero glut, director Brad Bird chooses instead to do many of them one better - adding in an element of heart and familiarity in regard to the realities of life. The best parts of both Incredibles films remains their attempts to be extraordinary people in an ordinary world, and that's where Incredibles 2 really soars. It is film about finding what makes you unique in a world of incredible people, and for all its flash and pizazz, it's the heart that lies at its center that makes it worth returning to this well after 14 years.

GRADE - ★★★ (out of four)


INCREDIBLES 2 | Directed by Brad Bird | Stars  Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, Huck Milner, Samuel L. Jackson, Brad Bird, Jonathan Banks, Bob Odenkirk, Catherine Keener, Sophia Bush, Phil LaMarr, Isabella Rossellini | Rated PG for action sequences and some brief mild language | Opens today, June 15, in theaters everywhere.

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