Review by C.J. Bunce
If you forgot why so many fans of superhero movies rate The Incredibles as not only their top animated movie but their favorite and best superhero movie, too, The Incredibles 2 will bring you back around. It was 2004 when we first met the Parr family, and yet here 14 years later the voice acting talent hasn’t missed a beat. Sure, we have a new actor as Dash (Huck Milner, replacing Spencer Fox), but Craig T. Nelson (Bob/Mr. Incredible), Holly Hunter (Helen/Elastigirl), Sarah Vowell (Violet), and Samuel L. Jackson (Lucius/Frozone) could have recorded this in 2005 and it couldn’t have sounded any better. And sound is half of the appeal of this solid sequel to the Academy Award-winning original, which won the Oscar for best animated film.
The music is just as incredible as Michael Giacchino’s work in the original, only his expanded themes this time may have resulted in an even better soundtrack. How did he not win the Oscar for the original? Who knows, but the Oscar-winning composer (for Up) pulls out all the stops from the 1960s spy movies, leaning on James Bond themes and using trumpets frequently grinding and screaming their way through a film that must be at least 85% action. If you are patient enough to sit through the full credits you’ll even hear the “classic TV show” style theme songs for each of the lead superheroes. The Incredibles 2 was worth the wait just for the visuals and style to be mirrored just right, thanks to returning writer/director Brad Bird leading the way. Bird was nominated for an Oscar for his writing for the original, and his new story nicely balances a fresh, new adventure with those elements fans want more of. So expect more bumbling by Mr. Incredible, more heroics by Elastigirl, more everything by Frozone, more Edna Mode, and more over-the-top, zany villainy.
Why are the original and The Incredibles 2 such great superhero movies? They certainly rip the heroics from the comic book pages, they make the family of heroes endearing but not sappy, they pepper the film with humor, and connect it all with an easy, fun story–not too much drama, but when it’s there it’s because of the maniacal nature of the most memorable comic book villains. The Incredibles 2 also benefits from not feeling obligated to use the Disney convention of adding goofy irrelevant characters added only for a dose of low-brow humor. They had room to do that with super-baby Jack-Jack, but instead of leaning on him for that, they use the character to help give Mr. Incredible a rounded story arc, providing the baby with several great scenes that steal the show. Anyone who ever had someone waking them up every night at 3 a.m. will appreciate the realism of little, smiling, happy-go-lucky Jack-Jack.
The only misfires worth mentioning come before the first logos cross the big screen. Our local screening (as I expect happened with all screenings), began with a segment of interviews with Bird, Nelson, Hunter, and Jackson. Their goal seemed to be to apologize for not making this sequel sooner. Which plays as awkward. This created doubt as to what kind of film we were about to see, but seeing the actors speak their parts also drags audiences out of the fantasy right when they are ready to get sucked in. The film was also preceded by an ill-placed animated short. The quality was as you’d expect–a great piece of animated artwork–but the tone was not happy or fun. Does anyone really want a downer right before seeing what is expected to be a flashy, exciting film? Finally, the film carries a well-publicized warning about the strobe effect throughout the film, which purportedly caused photosensitive people with epilepsy to have seizures. The warning rings of gimmickry. You’d think if Pixar could issue a warning it could do something about the problem. It seems impossible a giant company would make these scenes, particularly the nature of the villain’s attacks in the plot, without someone identifying this as a liability that needed addressing, prior to release.
But style is what you’ll probably remember most from The Incredibles 2. The new Parr house is an update to the 1960s retro stylings of the original (recall that house was destroyed). Here we see more retro-futurism with an organic Frank Lloyd Wright touch, a Modernist Tomorrowland-inspired mansion, crammed with post-modern amenities as projected from a 1960s world view. Credit returning production designer Ralph Eggleston’s eye for the integration of the overall look being so faithful to the original. Keep an eye out for the costumes. Costume designer Bryn Imagire juxtaposes the classic supersuit design with the clothes for new character Evelyn Deavor (voiced by Get Out’s Catherine Keener), who “wears” a Bohemian chic wardrobe that you might find today in a posh New York City burb. Why don’t costume designers for animated films get nominated for Oscars alongside other costume designers?
Better Call Saul’s Bob Odenkirk delivers voice work in the film that is another highlight you won’t want to miss. His Winston Deavor is the kind of appealing, energetic, and vivid personality that, were this a comic book, you’d expect to see much more of down the road.
Most importantly, it’s a fun movie for this mid-week Fourth of July when the humidity points to theater air conditioning as the place to be. The Incredibles 2 will be a great place to take yourself, your friends, and/or your family. It’s in theaters now and look for it to be popular enough to stretch its stay through the summer–in its first two weeks it’s already taken in $650 million.