“Incredibles 2” Movie Review


     You might recall when “The Incredibles” debuted in 2004, the superhero genre was in kind of a rut.  Aside from 2000’s “X-Men” and 2003’s “X-Men 2”, the crop of studio films being released remained weak after the collapse of DC’s “Batman” franchise following 1997’s deplorable “Batman and Robin”, as well as a number of middling efforts by Marvel that never resonated with audiences (Anyone remember 2003’s “Daredevil”?).  Brad Bird’s “The Incredibles” was a welcome surprise, carrying on the already established success of the Pixar brand (“The Incredibles” was the 6th film by Pixar) with what had become a winning combination of colorful characters and the kind of sly wit that kept the adults entertained while their kid’s eyes remained fixated to the images on screen.  Of course, much has changed within the film landscape of the superhero genre these last fourteen years.

     For the most part, DC continues to struggle.  Save for the Nolan “Batman” trilogy and Patty Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman”, the company hasn’t yet managed to build any sort of momentum with their classic characters.  But across town, Marvel began their cinematic universe with 2008’s “Ironman” and haven’t looked back, producing nineteen massively successful films to date with a half dozen more in the pipeline.  Whether you take the good with the bad, the fact is, there’s a lot of superhero film content flooding multiplexes on a regular basis nowadays, just as our favorite superhero family makes their return after nearly a decade and a half.

     Brad Bird is back in the dual role of writer and director with “Incredibles 2”, returning to the screen at a time when the market is overstuffed with dozens of superhero films, as well as a newly established standard for meeting audience expectation thanks to the aforementioned success of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe.  Can “Incredibles 2” compete?  The answer to that question will likely depend on whether or not audiences separate the film from the live action competition and view it through the lens of being strictly family fare.  Otherwise, it’s not exactly an even comparison.  Fact is, Bird’s story doesn’t  do much to differentiate itself from the storylines used in countless other films.  Sure, the entire premise and look of the original film was always a sort of retro type superhero story, featuring designs that would’ve been popular in the 60s and 70s, and meant to introduce the kinds of storylines and characters we grew up on to a new generation. But after so many critically and financially successful Marvel films to date, what we see here plays as if it’s a bit recycled.

     The story picks up directly where the first film left off.  If you were expecting Violet (Sarah Vowell), Dash (Huck Milner), and Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile) to be all grown up, then you may be disappointed.  The first family of superheroes is right in the middle of dealing with the Underminer (John Ratzenberger), as he drills his way into a bank vault and looks to escape by burrowing to freedom beneath the city’s streets.  As was fully explored as a plot thread in 2016’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”, those in charge aren't very happy with the city’s destruction caused by the attempts at apprehending the Underminer by the Incredibles and their superhero buddy, Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson).  In fact, a law remains intact which bans superheroes all together, forcing Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) and his wife, Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), to subdue their alter egos or face going to jail.

     After the initial fracas plays out, the Incredibles are asked to attend a meeting with a business man named Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk), who has a plan he believes will allow the people to see the value superheroes provide, thus creating the ability to overturn the law against them.  But just when you would think the best candidate to lead the endeavor would be Mr. Incredible himself, Winston indicates his preference for Elastigirl to lead a mission to capture the latest villain to wreak havoc on the city.  And that, of course, leaves Mr. Incredible in a “Mr. Mom” scenario that plays our exactly like you think, but also creates a number of memorable moments as he and the rest of the family begin to discover Jack Jack’s many powers.  The villain, by the way, is a guy called the Screenslaver, who looks to hypnotize the population and have them commit his evil deeds because of his belief (which is absolutely correct) that people have become overly dependent on their devices and live their lives looking aimlessly into a screen, rather than constructively seeking out the actual experiences they are instead consuming through a phone.  It’s a nifty take on the human condition of today, especially given the fact the original film predates the iPhone by three years.  My, how so many things have changed.

     Children of all ages, regardless of whether or not they have viewed the 2004 film, will love the non stop action, as well as the many other superheroes brought to the fray in order to give our lead characters both worthy adversaries and much needed support.  It’s a sort of superhero assembly, not unlike Marvel’s “The Avengers”, where the survival of all superheroes hangs in the balance, as Mr. Incredible sits on the sidelines tending to his daughter’s boy problems, his son’s uncontrollable energy, and Jack Jack’s ever developing arsenal of super skills.  Still though, I found it hilarious that of all films to lift its climactic sequence from, Bird chose the 1997 clunker “Speed 2: Cruise Control” and the downer of a finale that would see a massive cruise liner barreling towards a coastal city.  But at the end of the day, “Incredibles 2” provides the kind of entertainment parents will love taking their kids to, even if it doesn't quite measure up to the standard set by Pixar’s own sequels, “Toy Story 3” and “Finding Dory” come to mind, or the machine that is Marvel, which has been churning these things out for ten years now.  GRADE: B