Genre: Animation, Action, Adventure
Directed by: Brad Bird
Starring: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, Catherine Keener, Bob Odenkirk, Samuel L. Jackson
Since The Incredibles was released in 2004, the superhero sub-genre has become the dominant box office force. This year alone, not including Incredibles 2, the sub-genre has grossed more than $4 billion. Too many, there is glut of superhero cinema, but the return of writer-director Brad Bird and the Parr family should be a nice tonic for those bored by the live-action spandex.
Ignoring the emotional wallop present in Pixar’s recent releases like Coco, Inside Out and even Cars 3, Bird just wants to deliver a good time and front loads Incredibles 2 with some of the most exciting action scenes in recent memory. As an animated movie, physics isn’t entirely applicable and Pixar’s animators enjoy exploiting the power-set of The Incredibles and Frozone (Samuel L Jackson) in a way that would make the Avengers blush.
Apart from a visually stunning close-quarters fight scene in a flashing cage (a strobe lighting warning has been added to the film in the US), most of the action involves the heroes trying to stop a runaway vehicle from destroying the city. Bird and his animators use this momentum to actually direct the set pieces instead of opting for the vague coverage found in most modern blockbusters. These propulsive scenes foreground character, the way Helen Parr (beautifully voiced by Holly Hunter) stops an out-of-control maglev train feels inherent to her, and Bird’s sense of geography brings a fluidity that connects the disparate characters and their roles together.Unfortunately, the narrative isn’t as focused, with Bird separating the family into two subplots. To bring superheroes back, uber-rich siblings Winston and Evelyn Deavor (Bob Odenkirk and Catherine Keener) hire Mrs. Incredible to front a PR campaign, leaving a jealous Mr. Incredible (Craig T Nelson) at home to look after Violet (Sarah Vowell), Dash (Huck Milner) and Jack-Jack.
Admittedly, the idea of the husband being jealous of his working wife feels retrograde, but in the context of Incredibles 2 and the series as a whole, it doesn’t feel dated. In both films Bird enjoys dissecting the idea of the nuclear family with superhero tropes and his decision to push Mrs. Incredible to the forefront continues the character arcs from the first film, as she must learn to be more flexible and let her family grow while Mr. Incredible must continue embedding himself more into family life. As a writer, Bird is on fine form in both plots, but this time he struggles stitching the two parts together symphonically.
However, he has a knack for the sit-com style family shenanigans; a scene where the Parr family squabble over the dinner table about how unfair the world is being to them is wonderful to watch, and witnessing a superhero deal with his daughter dating or his son’s mathematics homework is a delight that brings these superheroes down to a relatable level. Bob also has to deal with baby Jack-Jack, who gets an entertaining slapstick fight scene with a raccoon that homages the Chuck Jones cartoons Bird grew up on.
Scoring it all is the returning Michael Giacchino, whose delightfully jazzy compositions compliment the impressive animation. You’ll be hard pressed to find a better looking animated movie this year, with the textures in particular helping this world feel more lived in and alive than many of the live-action superhero movies gracing the cinema screen.