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After waiting 14 years, Pixar decided to start Incredibles 2 with a pretty random interrogation— instantly, I knew Pixar had once again made something different than what I had expected. I’ll be honest, I was quite pessimistic about this one, thinking it was gonna go all Cars 2 on us and be a total flop; I’m more than happy to report that my expectations were both met and slightly exceeded. Pixar isn’t too hot when it comes to sequels, but this one will surely be right up there with the second and third Toy Story as one those that stand above the rest.
To the fans’ delight, this picks up right where we left off: beholding the Underminer (Pixar’s mandatory John Ratzenberger role). After seeing the event through the eyes of a hilarious witness, we are sucked back into the Incredibles’ sad reality—supers are still illegal (nitpick: this “law” actually becomes a little confusing when it’s not properly explained and the heroes are even seen on TV but not arrested). Bob/Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson), Helen/Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), and Lucius/Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) are quickly approached by Winston (Bob Odenkirk) and Evelyn Deavor (Katherine Keener), sibling tycoons who have a plan to make superheroes finally legal; Elastigirl is to be the face of the program, and thus leaves Bob to care for their three challenging children. So begins what we’ve been waiting for for 14 years…
The centerpiece of the entire story is Bob and Helen’s role-reversal; once again, the Incredible family lets us know that, despite their superhuman abilities, they are really just like all of us. Stay-at-home-Bob can’t put the baby to sleep, can’t help his son with the “new” math, and can’t figure out his adolescent daughter, but he still acts like he’s got everything in control to prove he’s up to the task. I doubt I am mistaken when I say this is a fairly accurate portrait of what it is to be like Bob in real life. Meanwhile, Helen is out being the sleek face of a worldwide movement; she stops runaway trains, saves an ambassador from an attempted assassination, and figures out the villain Screenslaver’s dastardly plot. The Parrs each face extremely different tasks, but each requires the same amount of strength and heroism. As Edna Mode (Brad Bird) poignantly puts it, “When done properly, parenting is a heroic task… when done properly.”
Besides the joy of watching Mr. Incredible actually suffer several defeats (in parenting, of course), it surprised me just how funny the rest of the cast was. When most of the publicity prior to the film’s release centered around Jack-Jack, I feared that the beloved baby would be over-exploited for cheap laughs; this was not the case at all. There is a good amount of plot that centers around the discovery Jack-Jack’s strange powers, but it is unbelievably fun to watch; highlights include his very own fight scene and his hysterical connection with Edna.
It isn’t just Jack-Jack that steals the show, but it’s Violet (Sarah Vowell) who is equally great to watch as she experiences the tragedy of teenage dating (the hardest I laughed was when her invisible self slumps downstairs to grab a big tub of ice cream while we hear her audible sobs). Really, it’s only Dash’s (Huck Milner) jokes that don’t always land, but even so, his presence never bogs the story down.
Even with all these pluses, Incredibles 2 has its valleys. For one, Screenslaver isn’t the most menacing of villains. He’s built up to be an absolute mastermind, but after the big reveal (which is kind of predictable from the start), the evil plot in the story just becomes a bit sloppy. What I saw as the main error in the movie was the final third; it lacked the emotional cherry-on-top that the first movie had with Mr. Incredible finally confessing his weakness prior to the big fight, and a nice epilogue to show just how much each character changed for the better. Once the credits rolled in this sequel, both Bob’s parenting struggle and Helen’s unrelenting desire to keep the children away from the fight feel half-heartedly concluded. The only one who has the clearest conclusion to her story is Violet. Even so, Incredibles 2 was (thankfully) a triumph. While it didn’t give us everything the original did, it managed to make the long wait truly worthwhile.