Incredibles 2

FAMILY NIGHT AT THE MOVIE | By Christopher Hill –

The year 2004 was a fascinating year. Other than it being notable for the birth of my son, Thefacebook – yes, that was the original name –  also launched. The TV show Friends ended its run, the Mars Spirit Rover was hustling around the fourth planet and the Red Sox won their first title since 1918. For superhero films, it was a transitional time, four years before Marvel launched its cinematic universe with Iron Man. At this point the studio was just squeezing the last dollars from a played Blade series. Fox and Sony were driving the ship with their X-men and Spider-man franchises, respectively. Sony reached its apex with the release of Spider-man 2, that generation of superhero films’ Citizen Kane. Fox had found success with its X-men and was about to launch another Marvel favorite in a 2005 release of Fantastic Four. But Pixar trumped that launch with its own super-powered family in the 2004 release of The Incredibles.

That film set a new standard for what a superhero movie could be. Despite being animated, these characters were more three-dimensional than most on-screen capes to this point. The film was a box office success, as well as a critical one, becoming Pixar’s first fully animated film to win a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. With that level of success, a sequel seemed obvious. Yet for a full decade, stories about that next part fell silent until 2014 when Disney announced the return of Pixar’s first family.

Now, 14 years after the first Incredibles, the logically titled Incredibles 2 hits the screen. Returning to the feature is nearly the entire cast, including Brad Bird, the original writer and director. Still, 14 years is a long time to wait.

The original movie took an average nuclear family and added powers to the always complicated family maelstrom. Viewers got to see them flex their muscles but also navigate life as a family, showing many of the same struggles viewers were experiencing first-hand or remembering from their own family upbringing. That connection helped dimensionalize these characters. The dad, Mr. Incredible, known as Bob Parr (Craig T. Nelson), had to prioritize his time superheroing with spending time with his family. The mom, Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), also had to balance that family time with her own growth as a cape and a woman. The kids, Violet (Sarah Vowell) and Dash, voiced by Huck Milner (the only voicing change to the cast), had to deal with school, preteen relationships and parental approval, all while keeping their identities a secret.

In the first film, the supers, who had once helped society but now were outlawed, continued to do so secretly. After the Incredibles defeated the villain Syndrone, the film ended on a cliffhanger, as a new villain called the Underminer took to the screen just as the credits rolled. In Incredibles 2 the action takes place less than one beat later, as the family springs into action to stop him. That sequence creates an opportunity for two leaders from a top telecommunications company (Bob Odenkirk and Catherine Keener) to create a plan that enables the supers to come out from hiding. That plan requires the shelving of the bull in the china shop that is Mr. Incredible and the elevation of someone who is a strong problem-solver who leaves less destruction in her wake. Their pick? Elastigirl.

While the film in movie time takes place right after the previous one, the film fits right in with the current #MeToo movement. The decision to choose Elastigirl as the face of supers, rather than the traditional brawny male, sets up the rest of the movie. Elastigirl has to adjust to the new paradigm, and Mr. Incredible has to become the domestic goddess he had not planned on becoming. Throw in more preteen angst and the fact that their youngest, Jack-Jack, is now exhibiting powers of his own — uncontrollable powers at that — and you have a modern superhero film that reminds us of our own family lives (minus the super stuff) and makes us laugh.

Incredibles 2 is a fun ride and a great family film. The filmmakers do not overburden their viewers with a lot of exposition. We don’t know how they got their powers. We don’t have any clue why Jack-Jack’s powers are so diverse. The film doesn’t go into any of it. It is a linear story that everyone in the family can find appealing. You feel Mr. Incredible’s pain in learning “new math.” You see Elastigirl’s conflict in being the star in public but missing out on things at home. Then, in 2004, The Incredibles was a fun, action-oriented family film. Now, in 2018, it remains a fun, action-oriented family film – truly a fantastic family night at the movies.

Incredibles 2

Now Showing: Opened June 15th
Rated: PG
Violence: Cartoon violence for the most part.
Language: None
Sexuality:  Teen flirting is about it