Pixar’s favourite superhero family returns to the big screen 14 years after the original film was released and I’m happy to report that Incredibles 2 was worth the wait. The writing for the film is fantastic, the action sequences are inspired and the story is fun and full of heart. It also continues to show the high quality that Pixar puts on the screen 90% of the time (the only two blemishes in my opinion are Cars 2 and The Good Dinosaur, which is pretty amazing considering Pixar has made 20 full-length films).
Incredibles 2 begins immediately where the first film left off, with our superheroes battling the villain known as the Underminer. Despite their best efforts, the Underminer escapes and all the damage that is caused leads to all superheroes being banned. This event sets off two compelling stories that shape the rest of the film. Mrs. Incredible is selected by a telecommunications tycoon to help shape a narrative that superheroes are important and worth having in society by videotaping her saving people. This leads to Mrs. Incredible getting the majority of the action sequences in the film. The other storyline involves Mr. Incredible coping with the fact that his wife is getting to fight crime and he is at home doing chores and raising the kids. This storyline gets the majority of the laughs in the film and involves a great sequence with Mr. Incredible trying to win back his daughter by taking her to a restaurant after he ordered her boyfriend’s mind to be erased. There is no playbook to be a parent. Eventually both storyline merge, leading to a final act where our heroes have to outwit the Screenslaver, who is a pretty great villain that prays upon how much people need monitors of some sort to function in life.
As always, the question is, should you go see this film? Here are my thoughts:
The writing is absolutely fantastic and probably the best reason why you should see this film. Characters have intelligent conversations with one another which includes an early sequence involving all the Incredibles dealing with the fact that they can’t fight crime anymore. It made me think that I was watching a Robert Altman movie, because they would all talk over each other to make their point, but never to the point that it was just noise. Mrs. Incredible and a character named Evelyn have a great conversation about their roles in life, thus passing “The Bechdel Test”. The family dynamic is written so well that you can relate to or remember similar situations in your own life that will make you smile as it deftly balances humour and heart.
The animation is spectacular (but when is it not with a Pixar film). The film continues the Art Deco retro feel of the first film and steps it up with more complex animated sequences. The one standout sequence is the one that is generating some controversy, as it feels like strobe lights are going off on the screen. I’m fortunate enough that I don’t have reactions to that kind of lighting, but for the sixty seconds that this sequence occurs, I was really impressed by it. The action sequences are also brought to life vividly and I really did enjoy the climactic battle that had sequences in a yacht, underwater and in the air. Just the imagination to make what is written down on paper and being able to bring it to life is a skill that constantly impresses me and all the animators should be proud of their efforts on this film.
The music by Michael Giacchino (who also composed the music for the original film) is great and the musical cues and flourishes that he adds to the sequences, both action and comedy, really help move things along without the music ever being intrusive enough that it takes you out of the story. Its great work and I downloaded the soundtrack after watching the movie, which I suggest that you do as well.
The voice acting is strong, with standout work being done by Holly Hunter as Mrs. Incredible, Catherine Keener as Evelyn and Craig T. Nelson as Mr. Incredible. Some credit goes to the writers, but the actor’s voice performances are so realistic and natural that you sometimes forget that it is an animated film. Craig T. Nelson plays up the comedy of his story line extremely well and during a stretch of the film where he is sleep deprived because the children are keeping him up all night, I never felt that he was “voicing” something. I really believed he was dead-tired by how he was talking (the animation compliments this feeling). Even when Mrs. Incredible is fighting crime, she checks in on the family and when she hears weakness in Mr. Incredible’s voice that he sounds like he is overwhelmed, the quick outburst of her dropping everything that she is doing to come home and be with her family felt real and believable. I always admire Pixar because they do a tremendous job casting their voices and this film is no exception.
The use of sound is also great in Incredibles 2, especially a sequence involving Jack-Jack and a raccoon, resulting in something happening to Jack-Jack that has the sound coming from different parts of the movie theatre. It’s these little technical flourishes that really impress me about Pixar as they seem to focus on every detail of a scene in order to make it standout.
I like to do the “watch test” when I see a film. The more I look at my watch to find out the time left in the movie, the worse the film usually is. I did not look at my watch once, which is quite the accomplishment, because I’m not the easiest person to impress when watching a film. It is rare that sequels surpass the original and I enjoyed Incredibles 2 more than The Incredibles.
You will also be happy to know that John Ratzenberger continues his Pixar voice cameo streak. Also, make sure you arrive on time to watch the Pixar short film Bao, which is a rare film that is set in Toronto and tugs on the heartstrings of a Chinese mother dealing with her son growing up and leaving her through a homemade dumpling (I’m not doing it justice by writing about it, but it makes sense when you see it).
Incredibles 2 is worth seeing in theatres and is an absolute must-see. It is not only the best film that I have seen this summer, it is also one of the top three films that I have seen this year. Pixar continues to push itself creatively and technically leading to a final result on the screen that perfect. The funny thing is, Incredibles 2 was supposed to come out next summer, but when production of Toy Story 4 fell behind, Disney/Pixar swapped release dates, causing Incredibles 2 to be moved up by a year. Despite that loss of a year to work on the film, Brad Bird and company made something incredible and everyone involved with making this masterpiece should be very proud of the work they have done. I give the film 4 out of 4 stars and if you can, see it in IMAX for the great sound and picture quality.