By HEATHER TURK
Front Row Features Film Critic
It’s hard to believe, but moviegoing audiences only waited two years longer for another “Star Wars” movie to come out in theaters after “Return of the Jedi” than they waited for an “Incredibles” sequel to be made. Now, after 14 long years of wondering what Jack-Jack’s superpowers are, the only question fans of Pixar’s beloved 2004 superhero movie want answered is was “Incredibles 2” worth the wait—or is it a disappointment, like “Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace?”
The animated action-adventure, which is once again written and directed by “The Incredibles’” Brad Bird, picks up pretty much right where its predecessor left off, with the animated superhero family fighting off the villainous Underminer (voiced by Pixar staple John Ratzenberger, “Cheers”). Unfortunately for the Parrs—super strong Bob/Mr. Incredible (voiced by Emmy Award winner Craig T. Nelson, “Coach”), flexible Helen/Elastigirl (voiced by Academy Award winner Holly Hunter, “The Piano”) and their three children: force-field generating/able-to-vanish Violet (voiced by Sarah Vowell), incredibly fast Dash (voiced by Huck Milner) and supposedly powerless baby Jack-Jack (voiced by Eli Fucile)—superheroes are still considered illegal. That means that even though the “Supers,” including their crime-fighting, ice-powered friend Lucius/Frozone (Academy Award nominee Samuel L. Jackson, “Pulp Fiction”), saved the day, the amount of destruction they caused during the battle leaves law enforcement officials questioning just how much good they’re really doing for society.
If this sounds a bit “Captain America: Civil War”-ish, it’s because it is. However, rather than having all of the superheroes forced into an early retirement choose sides in whether or not they continue to obey the law that bans Supers, the Parrs (and superheroes everywhere) decide to begrudgingly walk away from fighting crime once and for all. Just when Helen and Bob are deciding who will get a normal job and who will stay home with the kids, though, a brother-and-sister team whose father grew up adoring superheroes mysteriously shows up claiming that they know the way to prove to law enforcement officials that superheroes are beneficial to have around. By placing tiny cameras on each superhero’s super suit, people everywhere can see just how demanding their jobs are and how they try to do whatever they can to protect other people and public property—just sometimes destruction (not really casualties since this is a PG-rated film and not PG-13 or R-rated like Marvel and DC’s superhero movies) is par for the course.
Soon, Elastigirl is back in action trying to show law officials that the world needs superheroes. But someone was expecting Elastigirl to come out of retirement—and has a plan of their own to show people that trusting someone with superhero powers to always save the day can sometimes be deadly.
While the story may not be all that original and the villain’s reveal is anything but shocking (really, viewers have a 50-50 shot of guessing who the bad guy is), “Incredibles 2” is still well worth the near 15-year wait. Although far from Pixar’s best sequel, “Incredibles 2” is an action-packed, entertaining story that’s filled with plenty of laughs and a decent amount of heart. After all, for a film about a family with fantastical superpowers, watching Bob struggle with being a stay-at-home dad is easily the highlight of the movie—especially when Jack-Jack finally develops some special powers of his own. Nelson does a phenomenal job (literally) voicing Bob’s struggles of trying to be the best father he can be, and truly gives an awards-worthy performance any parent can relate to.
Even though “Incredibles 2” can pack a bit of an emotional punch at times, the film still manages to keep audiences laughing throughout its near two-hour runtime. While the best joke in the film (Bob trying to figure out Dash’s Common Core math homework) may have sadly been spoiled in the trailers, it still gets laughs in the theater. The film features quite a few additional laugh-out-loud moments as well, including one scene where it sounds like Frozone might accidentally say Samuel L. Jackson’s favorite curse word and another fun scene that’s a bit “Men in Black”-ish, complete with a character that looks just like an animated Tommy Lee Jones.
“Incredibles 2” has some weak points, though. Jack-Jack’s fight with a neighborhood racoon may be one of the film’s funniest moments, but viewers may end up feeling disappointed that the two characters never cross paths again later in the movie. Fan favorite Edna Mode (voiced by director Bird) is also criminally underused in the film, which is unfortunate since the pint-sized fashion designer with a gigantic personality once again steals the spotlight every chance she gets.
Probably the biggest fault with “Incredibles 2” has nothing to do with the film itself. The animated short that precedes the film, “Bao,” is quite perplexing, to say the least. Although the story of a little bao bun that comes to life has been widely marketed for a while, teasing that audiences will just love the adorable dumpling, “Bao’s” twist-ending might frighten younger audience members. Even adults may need a moment to digest, if you will, what they witness. Older viewers will eventually get what the filmmakers were going for, but the short (which is directed by “Inside Out” and “The Good Dinosaur” story artist Domee Shi) doesn’t quite play out the way it was intended.
Questionable short choice aside, even though it seems like there’s a new superhero movie in theaters every few weeks, audiences will be delighted to see the Parr family back in action. “Incredibles 2” may not be the best superhero movie to date—or even the best Pixar film—but it’s still a whole lot of fun. Fans of “The Incredibles” will likely be pleased with the sequel, especially with the reveal of Jack-Jack’s many superpowers, and can finally share their love of the Parr family by taking their own kids to the theater to see them—only after enjoying the film first by themselves. “Incredibles 2,” of course, is family friendly, but adults have waited a long time to see it and won’t want any distractions during their first viewing.