Monday, July 16, 2018

Incredibles 2

Directed by Brad Bird.
2018. Rated PG, 125 minutes.
Craig T. Nelson
Holly Hunter
Catherine Keener
Sarah Vowell
Samuel L. Jackson
Bob Odenkirk
Huck Milner
Brad Bird
John Ratzenberger
Jonathan Banks
Sophia Bush
Bill Wise

Hold up. Before we get to our main feature, we get...


If you see Incredibles 2 in theaters, you get treated to the short film Bao. Notice I said "you" and not me. You'll probably read a thousand mini-reviews saying how it's immeasurably sweet and heartwarming. Nope, not this amateur critic. Nuh-uh. I hate to admit it, but there are a few things that occasionally leap from the back of my mind to terrify me. One of those things is my food coming to life as I'm trying to cook it. Another is live food protesting in some way as I'm eating it. You know how many of those things happen in the five minutes or so this thing is on? Both. When the first happened I somewhat checked out, but kept watching. When the second happened, It took every bit of self-control I could muster to keep from curling up into the fetal position and whimper as I pissed myself. If you've seen it, this is the part where you tell me it's all just a metaphor used to depict a mother-son relationship and/or how cute it was. To hell with you. Living food is a big no-no in my book.

Now, we get to...

Incredibles 2

Picking up right where the first film left off, our favorite super-family is finishing up their battle with Underminer (Ratzenberger). They win, but there is a fair bit of collateral damage. Okay, there’s a lot of it. As a result, the program that helps supers integrate into regular society is shut down and all of the heroes, including our beloved Incredibles are forced back into hiding without any financial assistance. Soon enough, Winston (Odenkirk) and Evelyn (Keener), the owners of DEVTECH offer a high paying gig to Elastigirl (Hunter) doing superhero stuff. The plan is for them to champion her heroic deeds in the media, endearing her to the public, and thus, paving the way for supers to be legal again. She accepts, but things are made difficult by the presence of a dastardly villain named Screenslaver (Wise).

In true sequel fashion, the pace is much quicker, this time around. There is a lot more action and between all the excitement, there are more jokes. Thankfully, both are done extremely well. As far as the action goes, there isn’t just more of it, it’s bigger and better. There are a lot of things at play, here. First are the technological advances made in the fourteen years that between this movie and its predecessor. It looks fantastic. Next, the film compartmentalizes itself into its separate plot lines with action scenes accompanying each of them. The humor is sharp and aimed at two things: family life and other superhero flicks. For the former, the movie taps into what regular American life is like for families where one parent has to sacrifice an inordinate amount of time away from the home while the other is pretty much locked in the house to care for the kids. It looks at the way these parents handle this situation and how it affects the children. The movie also uses the children's superpowers as a metaphor for the stage in life each is currently in. Violet (Vowell) and Jack Jack are handled beautifully. Dash (Milner) gets a bit ignored in this process, but let's be honest. That's kind of what happens to middle kids (hmmm...a subplot for Incredibles 3, perhaps). When the humor turns to other superhero movies, it makes astute observations of them. The recently released Deadpool 2 was similarly self-aware. However, while that movie threw its barbs in self-congratulatory fashion, I2 takes a much more subtle tact. The digs are there, but they just appear rather than be highlighted in a manner that subtracts from the film. It works in the Deadpool franchise because it fits that tone. Here, it would merely be a distraction so the film wisely avoids it.

As mentioned, there are several plots working all at once. The one featuring the development of Jack Jack's powers is the most memorable. It gives the movie its funniest moments, and a number of action scenes revolving around his exploits in and around the house. More importantly, it serves as the film's connective tissue. Jack Jack is the one Mr. Incredible (Nelson) has to pay the closest attention and the one Elastigirl worries about most. Violet's storyline is the most obvious play for empathy as she is perpetually riddled with teen angst. As you might imagine, it revolves around a boy. Though predictable, her story manages to convey emotion without becoming too sappy.

Being a dad, myself, Mr. Incredible's storyline really resonated with me. Like a lot of movie dads, he finds himself in over his head when he has to become a house-hubby. Unlike most of those other guys, he's not portrayed as a bumbling idiot who has no clue what to do with his kids. His ups and downs come from being overwhelmed with how relentless his new bosses, the kids, are. He struggles more with how much there is to do than how to actually do it. When there is something he doesn't know, he's willing to learn as in one of my personal favorite scenes of the entire movie. He is initially unable to help Dash with his math homework. We then get a shot of him staying up late with Dash's textbook to learn it and getting Dash up early to teach it to him. This whole sequence lasted only a minute or so, but that was one of the most amazing things he did in the entire film. Another is how he swallowed his pride and encouraged his wife to step into the spotlight. Sure, at first, it was only because it would help him get back out there and be the star again. Soon enough, he realized this was a great opportunity not just for all supers, but for her, and he supported her.

Speaking of Elastigirl, this really is her movie. Jack Jack might be the breakout star, but the main plot and all the heavy lifting is done by her. What she brings to the table is on full display. We really get to see how much she can do with the ability to stretch. And to ride a motorcycle. Yes, she does, and she kills it. It's not just all about her being a superhero, either. We get the flip side of what Mr. Incredible is going through. She's away from her kids and missing important things in their lives. She can tell her husband is struggling with all that's going on. Somehow, she is still able to put everything she's got into the task at hand. In the #MeToo age, it might seem like an obvious move to have the movie centered on her, but to be honest, the original - made well before watching reruns of The Cosby Show became a moral and ethical dilemma - set this up perfectly. People tend to either forget, or downplay the fact that it was Elastigirl who led the charge to save her husband from impending doom, not the other way around. So, rather than feeling like the franchise is jumping on the bandwagon, it feels like a natural progression of the family's story.

I've written a lot here about the impassioned parts of Incredibles 2. This brings to an issue that most of the best Pixar movies have. Wait, let me rewind that. This isn't necessarily an "issue," but more of something I and many others have noticed. Much of the poignancy the film drips with will be lost on a huge chunk of the kids who watch it. Many of those subtle jokes I praised will go over their heads. This will add staying power the film because as the kids age, they will understand more of it, adding depth to the thrills. In the short-term, it's one of those kiddie flicks that parents will likely enjoy more. There's plenty for the kids with all the action I spoke of, and despite how I might have made it sound, there is plenty of humor the kids will easily grasp and bust a gut over. Because of that faster pace they may like it more than the original. I might also, but for different reasons. I'm okay with that. I'm still debating with myself whether I think it's better than it's predecessor. I'm okay with that, too.


  1. Sorry about Bao but I'm at least glad you liked Incredibles 2 as I'm with you on Mr. Incredible's storyline as I liked the fact that he goes home and tries to be the good father and do what he can for his kids. That's a real hero is a man who spends time with his family.

  2. Hahaha....that opening bit was hystetical. I can only imagine people dabbing their faces and nodding knowingly during Bao...while you're recoiling into a ball. Amazing!

    As for the flick, totally the review I wish I wrote. You nailed the authenticity of what Elastigirl does in a way I could not. Well done.

    Also, I'm so with you on Mr. Increible's plight at home. He IS NOT a bumbling moron...just overwhelmed. Extremely. And as a Dad who has been 'alone with the kids' for summer-long stretches...good Lord...could I relate.

    Great review.

    1. That's exactly what was going on during Bao.

      Thanks, but the review you wrote was plenty-fine.


  3. I've never heard of that first one but it sounds terrifying and stupid. You know me I'll never watch this but I didn't know where else to wish you a Happy Birthday....even if you are resistant to acknowledging it! Hope its a good day.

    1. I may be overreacting because the kids and seemingly everyone else in the known world loves Bao. Didn't work for me. Thanks!