Movie review: 'Incredibles 2' a thrilling superhero adventure
In a sense, all superhero movies are cartoons. So it stands to reason that "The Incredibles 2," Pixar's hugely delightful follow-up to 2004's "The Incredibles," would feature some of the most dazzling scenes of superhero action ever rendered on film.
The movie's fluent, imaginative, knockout action sequences are like the kinds of fantasies children act out when they're playing with action figures, where anything is possible and the only limits are those of your own imagination. Animation allows these scenes to be created, and because you're already dealing with an augmented sense of reality, they're easier to buy into because you don't have to suspend disbelief for actors or stunt people or CGI effects. (Also, in animation, actors are much cheaper to insure.)
"The Incredibles 2" folds these magnificent scenes into an enjoyable story about family, special powers and balancing work life and home life. If it's largely similar to the first "Incredibles," that's not a knock, because both are in the upper echelon of Pixar's top-line productions.
Let's go back to 2004 and the original "Incredibles" for a minute. The "Batman" series has stalled, "Iron Man" won't kick off the Marvel Cinematic Universe for another four years, and while the "Spider-Man" series is a hit, nobody has any inkling that superheroes are on the verge of taking over and reinventing the modern business of movies.
The Incredibles, then, were ahead of their time. A family of superheroes, each with their own unique abilities, they were brought to life by director Brad Bird, who had previously given life to "The Iron Giant." "The Incredibles" was a monster smash, bringing in $261 million at the domestic box office and winning universal acclaim from critics and audiences.
Bird went on to flex his muscles in live action with "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" — the one with the Burj Khalifa stunt that is a high point of the series — as well as the directionless, high profile flop "Tomorrowland." But with "The Incredibles 2" he's back on safe ground, and he creates a wondrous, retro-mod landscape for the Incredibles to do their thing.
"The Incredibles 2" picks up mere seconds after "The Incredibles" left off, with the family fighting off a villain looking to destroy their city. (While it has shades of Los Angeles, the film's downtown metropolis largely resembles that of Chicago.) To recap the family and their powers: Dad Bob (voice of Craig T. Nelson) possesses super strength; Mom Helen (Holly Hunter) is known as Elastigirl for her stretching abilities; daughter Violet (Sarah Vowell) can turn invisible; son Dash (Spencer Fox) has super speed; and baby Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile) -- well, his powers are revealed later in the film during a hilarious backyard standoff with a raccoon.
Superheroes and their superpowers are the subject of political debate, and the Parrs are forced into hiding until a benefactor (voiced by Bob Odenkirk) steps up to show the value of superheroes. This involves Elastigirl taking center stage while Bob stays home with the kids, a classic role reversal that allows for Mr. Mom-style high jinks while the woman takes center stage, fitting the modern narrative. (The film takes place in the early 1960s, although Bird's universe is so vivid and alive you might think his production design is just skewing retro.)
There's some business with a villain named the Screenslaver, who taps into people's minds through the use of visual devices, which brings the Incredibles together to do battle. And there's a subplot involving a small handful of B-superheroes, each with their own questionable super-abilities; watch out for Reflux, who calls on his powers of regurgitation.
There is a level of topicality to some aspects of the story — bodycams come into play, which are at the center of many police brutality debates — but nothing overly political is lingering in the film's DNA. Rather, "The Incredibles 2" makes its mark as a thrilling family adventure that can go pound-for-pound with any superhero movie, live action or otherwise.
'The Incredibles 2'
Rated PG for action sequences and some brief mild language
Running time: 118 minutes