Incredibles 2 is an entertaining, well-made movie that’s a model of family entertainment. Writer-director Brad Bird, who made his Pixar debut with The Incredibles in 2004, has come up with a fresh take on his ground-breaking story of a superhero clan. It emphasizes wife and mom Elastigirl and elicits big laughs from the smallest member of the family, explosive infant Jack-Jack. (I saw the movie with an enthusiastic audience last weekend and every gag involving Jack-Jack scored a crowd-pleasing bull’s-eye.)
Like all sequels this one poses a challenge for the filmmaker: the surprise factor inherent in an origin story is gone. We’ve already met the family and know what they’re about. Bird meets this task head-on, armed with a fresh point of view, lots of gags and almost non-stop action, accompanied by Michael Giacchino’s vibrant, brassy score (which, like his music for the first film, emulates the 1960s sound of John Barry). Another major asset is the stylish and imaginative production design by Pixar veteran Ralph Eggleston.
After a spectacular opening sequence in the city of Municiberg, an ungrateful city council votes to ban all superheroes! This doesn’t sit well with a determined business tycoon (Bob Odenkirk) who decides to “sponsor” Elastigirl and prove the city wrong. As a result, Mr. Incredible must adjust to being a house-husband, learning day by day about the hassles of raising three kids and running a household. (He’s even defeated by New Math.)
But never fear: the Incredibles are true superheroes. They all live up to their reputation, over the course of time, with satisfying victory moments for teenagers Violet and Dash and even good ol’ Dad. The returning voice cast (Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, Huckleberry Miner, and Samuel L. Jackson as Frozone) makes these characters both real and likable. Frozone makes a late entry and is underutilized, as is Edna Mode, voiced once again by director Bird.
My major complaint is the same one I voiced about the original picture in 2004: it’s too long. Brad Bird is an often-brilliant filmmaker but doesn’t know when to quit. He apparently doesn’t believe there can be too much of a good thing. For decades, animated features were short, many coming in well under 90 minutes. Bird broke that record with The Incredibles and, having produced a smash hit, saw no reason to change his way of thinking. The Incredibles 2 is long and feels it, but I have a feeling the public isn’t going to mind. They’ll be too busy having a good time.