VOD film review: Incredibles 2
Ivan Radford | On 21, Nov 2018
Director: Brad Bird
Cast: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell
Watch Incredibles 2 online in the UK: Sky Cinema / NOW / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Google Play
“You have powers! Yeah, baby!” exclaims Bob Parr, aka. Mr. Incredible, in Incredibles 2, as he sees baby Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile) unleash laser vision, burst into flames and turn into a weird, little, purple monster thing. It’s an excitement that’s worn off to some degree by the time Pixar’s sequel hits our screens – in the 14 years since The Incredibles, not only has it been a long time since we first saw Jack-Jack in action, but we’ve also seen almost every character in every movie since get some kind of superpower. Bringing back the Parr family for another adventure, then, might seem like an idea that’s lost its novelty – after all, as the first movie taught us, when everyone’s special, nobody is. But The Incredibles come back to our screens with every bit of the same wit, heart and magic that made their original adventure Pixar’s best to date.
Brad Bird’s sequel comes up with an inspired way to overcome the lengthy time gap between the movies: the action picks up mere seconds after the original ended, as The Underminer’s plans to rob a bank are thwarted by Mr. Incredible and family. But after ma (Holly Hunter – Elastigirl), pa (Craig T. Nelson – Mr. Incredible), Violet (Sarah Vowell) and Dash (Huck Milner) cause the city costly damage through their efforts, things only get worse – Supers, don’t forget, were made illegal during the first movie. That idea was genuinely inspired when it was introduced in 2004. Since then, we’ve hard more than our fair share of comic book tales that see superheroes rejected by society. But The Incredibles doubles down on its uniquely emotional take on such tropes: it’s not just one hero that’s being exiled here, but a whole family, struggling to live in a motel room without jobs.
Enter Winston Deaver (Bob Odenkirk), a telecom billionaire who wants to prove superheroes are a good thing. And so he and sister Evelyn (Catherine Keener) invest money in making Elastigirl cool again – and just in time, because the city soon finds itself under attack by the menace of a mysterious new villain, who goes by the name Screenslaver. Their mission? To use everyone’s reliance on their phones, computers and TVs to their advantage, by hypnotising chosen targets and turning them into unwitting pawns.
It’s not quite as subversive as the original movie’s message, but it’s a decidedly bold theme to address in a family movie, particularly one hailing from such a large entertainment empire. But that undercurrent is lost among a wave of other ideas that run into and over each other, not least the expansion of the movie’s universe to include other superheroes, also-rans such as Reflux (a pensioner with stomach acid to rival Alien blood), Crusher (a strong simpleton who doesn’t know how to “un-crumple”) and Voyd (a portal-wielding young woman who almost steals the whole show). If all that sounds a little Kick-Ass 2, though, Incredibles 2’s strength is that, no matter how big things get, it always returns to the small family drama at its core.
And so while the manipulation of media is important, and so are the arsenal of other illegals who are made outcasts by society, there’s nothing more important than the Parr’s own bonds of trust and loyalty: they may be hoodwinked or separated, but they’ve always got each other’s backs, whether that’s saving the day in explosive style or helping out with the homework. “Why would they change math? Math is math!” cries Mr. Incredible, as he tries to hold the house together in the absence of Elastigirl. It’s an age-old comic tradition, but it forms the basis of a hugely rewarding arc, as Mrs. Incredible gets the chance to shine in her own superbly choreographed set pieces and Mr. Incredible (in a sweet inversion of The Incredibles’ central motto) learns the value of not being super in order to be a hero.
This might all seem quite heavy for an animated blockbuster, but Brad Bird’s script plays things light as a feather, balancing colourful, vividly retro world-building with a cracking pace, a knowingly pastiche score from Michael Giacchino, and a flawless sense of humour – the only thing that moves faster than our heroes is the non-stop deluge of laughs, whether it’s Samuel L. Jackson’s Frozone with his smart one-liners or the pure slapstick joy of seeing Jack-Jack fight a racoon. The result is a delightful piece of comic book-style action that proves Pixar’s super-powered franchise can stand out from the pack even 14 years later; in an age where every movie seems to feature someone special, The Incredibles still are too.
Incredibles 2 is available on Sky Cinema. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW, as part of a £11.99 NOW Cinema Membership subscription.