“Spider-Man 2.” “The Dark Knight.” “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” The superhero genre is the rare category of movie that has regularly delivered second installments which live up to or surpass the original entries in esteem and/or success at the box office. And while it took fourteen years for Disney/Pixar’s smash hit “The Incredibles” to receive its follow-up film “Incredibles 2,” I’m extremely pleased to report it will be remembered alongside those other examples as a more-than-worthy sequel.
Auteur writer/director Brad Bird (“The Iron Giant,” “Ratatouille”) returns to bring the super-powered Parr family to life once again in “Incredibles 2,” along with talented original cast members Holly Hunter as Elastigirl, Craig T. Nelson as Mr. Incredible, Sarah Vowell as Violet, and Samuel L. Jackson as friend-of-the-family ice-conjurer Frozone. Joining the fun this time around are Bob Odenkirk (“Better Call Saul”) as the enthusiastic billionaire Winston Deavor and Catherine Keener (“Capote”) as his tech-head sister Evelyn.
The two philanthropists are intent on bringing superheroes back into the public spotlight after their exile fifteen years earlier, with an eye on putting their best food forward by utilizing Elastigirl to lead the charge. But the mysterious villain The Screen-Slaver has other plans, setting in motion a scheme to hypnotize and control all the world’s Supers, with the ultimate goal of getting them banned even more permanently.
In true comic-book form, the story picks up immediately after the events of the first entry, with the Incredibles battling the Underminer (Pixar mainstay John Ratzenberger) through city streets while trying to avoid government intervention. The only noticeable incongruity here is Dash, voiced by new actor Huck Milner after originator Spencer Fox aged out of the role. But Milner settles into the role nicely with the required high-speed enthusiasm and the movie gets off to an exciting start.
Without being overly similar, the plot is almost a mirror-image of Bob Parr’s adventure in the first movie, with Helen taking the spotlight on a solo superhero assignment until (of course) being joined by the remainder of the family later on. In the meantime, Mr. Incredible is stuck finding out just how difficult it can be raising three children, and the interplay between him, baby Jack-Jack, and an innocuous raccoon is undeniably one of the highlights of the movie.
Having rewatched “The Incredibles” last week to prepare for the sequel, it’s amazing how Pixar’s animation technology has improved by leaps and bounds since 2004, with textures, faces, and landscapes now appearing close to real on the big screen, as opposed to the blockier, far more primitive look of the first movie. And while the writing, action, and humor were always on point in the original, they all feel refined and fine-tuned to meet the visuals in “Incredibles 2.”
After establishing an impeccable track record in animation, Brad Bird took a successful stab at live-action with 2011’s “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” and then stumbled in 2015 with the Disney theme park-inspired “Tomorrowland,” but “Incredibles 2” proves an indisputable return to form. He also returns as the voice of Edna Mode, the Parr’s irascible Edith Head-esque costume designer, though that character feels a tad underused this time around considering her cult-like popularity.
Still, Mode steals the show in her brief amount of screentime alongside baby Jack-Jack, as Helen and Bob reestablish themselves as the perfect superhero straight men to the equally daunting worlds of crime-fighting and child-rearing, respectively.
The phrase “more of the same” never quite sounds like a good thing, but in this case you can feel free to take it as a shining endorsement: “Incredibles 2” is just as rewarding—with and equivalent level of thrills, laughs, and heart—as its predecessor.
Disney/Pixar’s “Incredibles 2” will be released into theaters nationwide this Friday, June 15.