Placed before the long-awaited, sequel to Disney-Pixar’s 2004 smash hit “The Incredibles” is a featurette with stars Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter and Samuel L. Jackson, each acknowledging that yes, 14 years is a long time to wait for a sequel, but promising that this one will be worth the wait. About as instantly as this featurette ends and the highly anticipated sequel begins, we see how truly right they are, as it proceeds to put a smile on your face that, much like the delightful action onscreen, just won’t quit.
Though it’s been fourteen years since audiences last saw the Incredibles family, “Incredibles 2” picks up right where its predecessor left off, both in terms of quality and plot. The original’s cliffhanger ending transitions seamlessly into the sequel’s enthralling opening, with the whole Incredibles family in rare form, successfully chasing down a bankrobbing villain but causing so much structural damage throughout the city that the federal government re-ups its efforts to outlaw superhero activity once and for all.
Soon after the Incredibles are forced into hiding, however, Mr. and Mrs. are contacted by telecommunications tycoon Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk,), a lifelong superhero enthusiast who aspires to prove that superheroes cause far more good than harm in society. To that end, Deavor plans to pool his virtually unlimited resources with his impersonal but highly inventive sister Evelyn (Catherine Keener) and any superhero he can recruit to the cause.
Deavor chooses to launch the campaign with Mrs. Incredible/Elastigirl (Hunter), as her rubberiness is far less likely to damage city property than Mr. Incredible’s (Nelson) super strength. Initially, this results in Elastigirl gaining nationwide recognition for kicking butt and saving lives while a visibly jealous Mr. Incredible takes on the less physically threatening but equally demanding task of being a single Dad for angsty teen Violet (Sarah Vowell), growing boy Dash (Huck Milner) and baby Jack-Jack, who displays new superpowers even more rapidly than he spouts new sounds. However, the looming presence of new supervillain Screenslaver, who is capable of manipulating anybody watching a screen, ultimately necessitates all the Incredibles & friends coming to Elastigirl’s aid.
As was the case with the first installment of “The Incredibles,” Brad Bird has returned for this second go-around to take on writer/director duties. And once again, Bird delivers a film overflowing with creativity and charisma, rivaling and perhaps even surpassing the heights reached by the original.
Unlike so many other insecure Hollywood sequels, Bird confidently rewards us with doses of what we liked about the original–including satisfying appearances by fellow superhero Frozone (Jackson) and the Incredibles’ diminutive, deliciously snarky outfit designer Edna (voiced by Bird himself)–all while bringing new, welcome elements to the table. In saddling Mr. Incredible with single Dad duties, “Incredibles 2” features not only an easily digestible message for children about the importance of family, but also a more complex challenge for spouses to overcome jealousies in order to provide one another with unconditional support.
“Incredibles 2’s” greatest strength may very well be its stunning visuals, which serve as yet another reminder that the artists on the Pixar lot are the superheroes of all things animation. The world that Bird has created is bursting with opportunities to let the audience’s collective imagination run wild, and the animators are clearly having a blast capitalizing on them. Perhaps the greatest showcase of Bird & Co.’s ingenuity comes courtesy of the emerging superpowers of Baby Jack Jack, a character whose surface was barely scratched at the end of the first “Incredibles,” but here is worth the price of admission on his own.
Another way in which “Incredibles 2” is reminiscent of the original is the fact that the sequel ends in practically identical cliffhanger circumstances: a new villain on the loose, the whole Incredibles family putting on their signature black eye masks, grinning about the prospect of tackling a new adventure together. We can only hope that the likely follow-up won’t induce another 14 year hiatus this time. But if that’s what it takes for the third installment to be as good as this sequel, it’ll be well worth the wait.