Incredibles 2 picks up from the moment The Underminer makes his appearance at the end of the first film. Yet, failing to stop The Underminer from committing his crime the Parrs and all superheroes are under even more scrutiny than ever.
Enter a super rich industrialist, Winston Devour, who still loves superheroes and wants to prove to the World that they are necessary. Also at the forefront of this push for superhero acceptance is the Ambassador, who by no small coincidence should remind everyone of German chancellor Angela Merkel and her leadership during the refugee crisis. With the help of Winston's tech savvy sister Evelyn he enlists Helen/Elastigirl to become the new face of Superheroes. By documenting her every move, and every victory, they hope to change the public perception of superheroes and make it legal to be one again.
On her first mission Elastigirl discovers there is a new villain in town called the Screenslaver who wants to stop this pro-superhero movement. It is up to Helen to track him down and stop him before he disrupts an important summit hosted by Devour and the Ambassador that will make it legal to be a superhero again.
Now that Helen is out fighting the Screenslaver and trying to save the reputation of superheroes everywhere this leaves Bob/Mr. Incredible at home with the kids. He would rather be out fighting crime but his new role as a stay at home dad is take care of Jack-Jack who is developing new powers every day, help Violet navigate adolescence and keep Dash from dropping expensive furniture in the indoor moat.
It is a welcome change of role reversal, the wife and mother out of the home, bringing home the bacon. Bob struggles at first with the idea of Helen being the one fighting crime, earning a living, taking care of the family’s needs. It goes against the grain, the outdated patriarchal nuclear family model. But what he ends up doing is taking care of his children’s needs individually by being there for them at every moment. So much that he wants to succeed at it, at being a good father to his kids. Edna Mode will say to Bob in her scene stealing moment, “Done properly, parenting is a heroic act”.
What writer and director Brad Bird has given us in Incredibles 2 is a superhero version of the Double Act. The Elastigirl and Devour’s storyline is the Straight Man. Formal in tone, it is simple and straight forward, the superhero solving the mystery of the supervillain’s intention to ruin the reputation of superheroes forever.
It features really amazing set pieces, some of the best action ever committed to animation, with bikes casing runaway trains, helicopter chases through the cityscape and a dazzling face off between Elastigirl and Screenslaver in his hideout before the final act. As Helen gets closer to the Screenslaver she will discover their true identity and while it did not pull the rug out from under this reviewer it should be a good surprise for its young audience.
The action sequences are all top shelf, wildly imaginative and free from the constraints of the laws of physics or sentences like, ‘You cannot place a camera at that angle and expect it to follow that helicopter around that corner of that building’. We are only limited by our imaginations and Brad Bird’s imagination is apparently limitless. Where we have excelled with the aid of computers by making our live action superheroes jump or fly through the air, as much as we have successfully digitally earased the wires, live actors are still punching air an equal amount of the time and those scenes still lack the fluidity of action created solely by the aritists at Pixar.
This leaves us with the Funny Man, the Parr family learning to operate without Helen at the helm. Fuelled by Jack-Jack’s ever blossoming array of superpowers the story line of Bob taking care of the kids is where all the laughs are. There is Jack-Jack’s seriously hilarious stand off with a neighbourhood critter that nearly rivals any of the action sequences in the Elastrigirl storyline but here is where the heart of Incredibles 2 lies as well. This especially rings true as Bob tries to help Violet and her boy situation, which we picked up from the end of the first film. Bob may or may not have created the situation in the first place. Maybe. He definitely did. Despite the Parr's superpowers they still have to deal with real life situations like crushes on silly, forgetful boys.
The two story lines converge in the final act at the summit when the real villain of the story makes their move and all the Parrs, together with Frozone, attempt to thwart their plan of ruining superhero reputations forever.
Once again, Brad Bird and Incredibles 2 prove that this franchise is as good as animated classic superhero movies will ever be. Bird simply can do no wrong when it comes to animation. His story expertly balances the mystery and action of Helen’s story with laughs of plenty as Bob navigates Violet's adolesence and Jack-Jack's superpowers, while discovering his other superpower, taking care of his kids.
I do not write my reviews with the intent of creating pull quotes. I am often surprised when something from a review I have written shows up on a cover somewhere, though I imagine it would be easy to insert something like 'Incredibles 2 is a full throttle fun adventure for the entire family', or, 'Brad Bird and Disney/Pixar have done it again', or, 'Incredibles 2 is the superhero film the whole family can enjoy together', in just any old spot in hopes of it being picked up for a national press campaign. If the aim was to get a pull quote out of my review those are the kind of things I would have written, and still meant it, in my review above.
Honestly, as entertaining as Incredibles 2 is I was just as impressed with Bird's take on the Double Act for his story's narrative structure.
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