Movies

Movie Review: Incredibles 2

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Walt Disney Studios

Incredible! Hollywood finally gave us a sequel we asked for. After fourteen years of pleading for my childhood exemplars to return to the Cineplex, the animated “Incredibles 2” dashes into theaters with the same enlightening and entertaining verve and wit that made the first a playground for virtue. And it’s within the mirthful recesses of director Brad Bird’s mind, that makes this long awaited Pixar sequel a marvel among Marvel films, transparent amidst prequels and sequels, and down right explosive fun for all ages.

Especially for those of a certain age who can relate to Frozone’s (Samuel L. Jackson) eternal battle in holy matrimony with his wife–it’s either save the world or save face and stay home for dinner. His choice of course is more than three little words, it’s five big ones: “Honey, where is my Super-Suit?”

The middle-class family of five super heroes start where they left off, with the Underminer, who breaches the city of Municiberg’s surface with a drill mechanism, though ironically it’s the superheroes who are forced to go underground. It’s an action extravaganza that proclaims the Incredibles return.  Blend that with babysitting, precocious adolescent frustration, and of course, Michael Giacchino’s suave and seducing James Bond inspired score, and we feel right at home. Even if after city ruination, our heroes don’t have one for themselves.

And it’s ruination that has the Incredible family posted up in a murky back alley motel that seems as dated as their career. How did these life-saving luminaries become alienated in their own city? As the saying goes, you can’t fight city hall. Which here–contrary to the real world(?)– happens to be fueled by capitalist greed. They blame the heroes for havoc, and let the villains trot off scott-free–as long as everything is insured.

As assured, Bird is spreading his wings in political complexity: his worlds being autocratic metropolis’ where the morally just are snubbed by unjust corporate chieftains, with protagonists who rise at the final hour. Though we needent wait long for the family to be back up on their feet here. Elastigirl soon gets a call from telecommunication’s titan Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk), who seems nice enough, though viewers of “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul” know Odenkirk’s voice of confident aura is not to be trusted. Such an assumption may not smell right, since other senses give us a sunken feeling as to who the hypnotic villain “Screen Slaver” really is.

Winston and his sister Evelyn (Catherine Keener) have hopes to make super heroes great again, by putting a camera and the spotlight on Elastigirl (the recognizable voice of Holly Hunter shines here, as in the first) for the world to see. She stretching her powers in unimaginable ways, which is saying something when describing someone whose power is being able to stretch to unimaginable distances. Her nemesis goes by the amusing name of Screen Slaver, who unlike the overtly cocky spiky red haired Syndrome from the first, lurks in the shadows using mind control on the screen-addicted citizens of Municiberg and their undesired saviors.

Mr. Incredible (voiced with machismo, tenderness, and despair by Craig T. Nelson), on the other hand, is fighting an equally demanding obstacle, being a father. Mr. Incredible’s bulky chest and gaunt legs are side-lined to take care of the children while Elastigirl is seen in every which direction but at home with her family. The film really is at its best in this clever gender-norm reversal.

However, as is soon learned, there is no reversing Violet’s (Sarah Vowell) humorously vexatious gripes on boys: “boys are jerks and superheroes suck, I renounce them” she pleads crunched up into a blooming ball of rage. She may be able to formulate force-fields from her hands, but trust me, nothing is shielding her from the drama of being a teenage girl. As we watch Mr. Incredible attempt to help Violet’s boyfriend remember her (his memory was wiped by a device not all to different from a gadget seen in “Men in Black”), we also see him trying to remember 10 year old Dash’s (Huck Milner) algebra as he lends a not-so-helping-hand with his homework.

Dash can zip by at the speed of light, but Roemer is certainly the last thing on his mind — that and vegetables. As for the infant Jack Jack, no pacifier can surpass his fire. Try getting this baby to sleep, or even try guarding the cookie jar when the toddler can float through dimensions and walls with his wide beady eyes and mischievous grin. That’s a task only the lovable Edna (voiced by Bird himself) could bear.

Bird’s sequel of his own beloved original may not top the revelation that was the first, but “Incredibles 2” is as sharp, timely, and fun as anything he has developed to date. This isn’t just a movie for families, it is witty satire about them, as well as a telling reminder of their importance. Director of animated favorites “Ratatouille” and the “Iron Giant”, Bird is no stranger to humanizing the outlaw. Through detailed and delightful character studies, a Giant can have a caring heart, a rat can be adorable and artistic, and a family, in particular a mom, can be heroic and honorable.

The animation is keen and breathtaking, the action sequences as buoyant as a yacht, and the outcome equally transfixing as it is sentimental, albeit never emotional. Buzz Light Year would say before a stoic act “to infinity and beyond”, the “Incredibles” do something even more admirable, they simply go above and beyond.

4.5/5

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