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INCREDIBLES 2

“Incredibles 2” is the long-awaited sequel to the acclaimed animated superhero film from Pixar, “The Incredibles.”  The film takes place immediately where the last one ended, as super villain, the Underminer, plows through the city.  The Incredibles/Parr family (husband Mr. Incredible/Bob, wife Elastigirl/Helen, and kids Dash, Violet, and Jack-Jack) jump straight into action, but soon after saving the day, they still risk getting arrested, due to the government-mandated law of superheroes being illegal.  However, Helen is soon hired by telecommunications siblings Winston and Evelyn Deavor as their new sponsor for restoring the public image and making superheroes legal again, but eventually, she ends up facing a new super villain, Screenslaver, infamous for his mind control.  Meanwhile, the family baby, Jack-Jack, is shown to have superpowers, and far more than they even imagined, all of which Bob is trying to balance, along with taking care of the family at home, while Helen goes off on her missions.  Frozone returns, and this time, he’s got his super suit, and new superheroes are featured, consisting of Voyd, lava-barfing Reflux, the Hulk-like Brick, telekinetic Krushauer, the owl-like Screech, and the electric He-Lectrix.  

 

The appeal of the Incredibles movies and the Parr family has never really been just about them being superheroes, but rather maintaining their family dynamic while also fighting crime.  In the wake of numerous superhero movies released since the first film, Brad Bird and his returning team spend their energy focusing on themes of technology being a prominent force in our lives and also, most importantly, subverting gender norms, with Bob now being depicted as the Mr. Mom of the Parr family. Returning to these characters feels especially welcome here, with snappy being the best word to describe the flow of the dialogue, and tributes to classic spy thrillers being peppered throughout the plot.  Much like the first film, this sequel maintains a very lighthearted approach, in contrast to most superhero movies of recent years.  Even in the action sequences, the film never takes itself too seriously, but things never devolve into camp, instead treating the superheroes with a great degree of reverence.  Comic timing is especially effective (and in full force) during a fight scene between Jack-Jack and a ravenous raccoon.  The powers of the new superheroes themselves in this sequel add a spice of variety to the superhero genre, with Voyd’s eponymous ability standing out in teleporting anything anywhere and He-Lectrix zapping to new heights.  

 

All of the original voice cast return (save for Dash, with now-older Spencer Fox being replaced by newcomer Huck Milner), with Holly Hunter’s Elastigirl taking the reins with style and Craig T. Nelson incredibly applying the light touch of subtlety in his performance as Mr. Incredible.  Samuel L. Jackson elevates any movie he’s in, and this is no different with his return appearance as Frozone.  Even Bird himself returns to voice everyone’s favorite superhero costume designer, Edna Mode, along with John Ratzenberger returning as the Underminer during the film’s intro.  Newcomers to the Incredibles franchise include Bob Odenkirk’s enthusiastic Winston playing against Catherine Keener’s more laconic Evelyn, and Jonathan Banks (replacing the late Bud Luckey) as superhero agent Rick Dicker, along with a special appearance by legendary actress Isabella Rossellini as an ambassador for superheroes.   

 

As always with Pixar’s films, the CG animation is to the highest standard; in fact, just the first few minutes show how much they have improved technologically in the fourteen years since the original film’s release.  For example, faces and clothing are more detailed and better-defined while still retaining their geometric, cartoonish touch, hair locks flow more smoothly, lighting feels more realistic yet colorful at the same time, and the camera is able to move in more unique twists and turns throughout, particularly in the train sequence.  The superpowers of Elastigirl, and especially Jack-Jack, offer a wealth of opportunities for Bird and the Pixar animators, lighting artists, effects artists, and modelers to push the boundaries of what they can do with these characters.  Ralph Eggleston’s production design and Nathan Fariss’ sets are made to resemble 1960s modernist architecture and futuristic artwork, given its Art Deco-inspired setting of Municiberg, right down to the TVs being round and featuring clips of “The Outer Limits” and “Jonny Quest.”  The Parr family’s new residence, in particular, features an architectural structure and design that would make Frank Lloyd Wright proud.  Michael Giacchino’s sequel score calls to mind the cavalier orchestrations of Henry Mancini and thrilling spy influences of John Barry’s James Bond scores.  The original theme songs created for Elastigirl, Mr. Incredible, and Frozone just add to the charm of it all.

 

The film is preceded by a short film entitled “Bao,” centering on a Chinese woman who makes dumplings and suffers from empty nest syndrome.  When one of her dumplings comes alive, she ends up raising it like her son, and soon enough, the dumpling becomes rebellious as it reaches its teen and adult years.  As strange as the concept itself is, you can guarantee Pixar finds a way to make anything like this emotionally compelling, and director Domee Shi is able to give the mother and the dumpling so much personality and reaches out to anyone who has ever struggled to raise a rebellious young adult.    

 

After a fourteen year absence, “Incredibles 2” arrives to great anticipation, and the results are nothing short of, well, incredible.

 

(orIG

**** “Ya-stars” 

(Originally written and published on July 14, 2018)

 

Video Review: Incredibles 2 - Movie Review

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