By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
- Spoiler Alert!
Brad Bird‘s The Incredibles is a perfect send-up to many a past superhero comic. Not only does it explore familial issues (the core of what this franchise is about) but also it continues to examine the public perception of what kind of purpose do these Supers serve. The subplots introduced in the first film get further analysis, and the resolutions are far from being complete.
This second chapter does not get too deep with the whole “Gods and Monsters” aspect which defines many a DC film. To stay light-hearted needed this filmmaker’s magic touch. PIXAR’s mantra focuses on matters of the heart and togetherness instead of the difficult choices heroes have to make: Is it possible to save everyone from harm?
In the first movie, Mr. Incredible aka Bob Parr (voiced by Craig T. Nelson) yearned for those bygone days of simply saving the day. He has an ego the size of his heart. To do good is tough, and he’s not out to showboat. He wants to protect the little guy, but not everyone agrees to his method. The public despises superheroes because they can potentially cause more harm than good (somebody has to clean up the mess they leave behind), and only a handful of folks support them. He gets recruited to do good deeds but little did he know the peoples involved have their own agenda. The sequel flips the situation around by having Elastigirl / Helen (Holly Hunter) getting the adventure and seeing Bob at home, dealing with raising a nuclear family. The plot is a retread and it works well enough to highlight reversed gender roles. Bob gets to clean the dishes at home and Molly gets to be Mrs. Fantastic.
It’s amusing to watch Dash (now voiced by Huck Milner) struggle with homework, Violet (Sarah Vowell) deal with boyfriend heartache and Jack-Jack (the baby) go out of control. To watch these moments only reminded me of Coach (1989-97). In this sitcom, Hayden (Nelson) struggled with single parenthood and with how to raise a teenage daughter. The final season saw him adjusting to a new life, with a new wife he truly adores, and the hurdles involved in trying to get to the altar. By the series end, he achieves big league dreams.
This sequel tries hard to redeem the heroes. That law to force heroes to lead simple lives needs to be rescinded and Winston Deavor is genius who can do it! He’s a telecommunications tycoon who knows the damage wrought is not their fault. Molly (Elastigirl) is recruited to show this world needs its heroes because her techniques cause the least damage. The new villain she, and eventually the entire Parr family, have to face proves to be challenging because he wants to turn them into Justice Lords (from “A Better World,” Justice League: TAS). Just who this person is is relatively easy to figure out when considering the limited number of characters in this tale. The obviousness is straight out of a Sam Spade novel.
Comic book enthusiasts can figure out how this story will end. Molly shows she can give Spider-Man a run for his money (sorry Marvel) and I’m a convert, preferring animated takes (CGI or cel) over any live-action spectacle. It’s less costly to create. When considering my fondness Nelson’s past roles and how well he sells the father figure image, I knew what was coming. To see Jack-Jack go full throttle made for the best laugh-out-loud moments. Even the audio tricks were perfect. This polymorphic wonder does not have one power, but many. To watch Bob deal made for chuckle-worthy moments. Frozone’s reaction hardly registered. Sadly, he’s the most underused and underutilized character in this series. He hardly mattered for much of the film until the end.
The main plot is good because we finally see just how other Supers coped. One issue did bug me, and that’s where did all the super-powered bad guys go? They ought to be having a field day when the good guys are not allowed to do their job. Some organization must be dealing with these threats.
Sadly, a third film is not likely to happen to answer this question. The Underminer cannot be alone, and when there is one, so must another follow. Bird mentioned in an interview on Hollywood Reporter that unless there’s a terrific story to go along with the set pieces he has in mind, any sequel (in reference to part two specifically) is unlikely. The same rules exist for finishing the still unanswered questions about why most of the villains the heroes faced are Lex Luthor types. With Disney owning PIXAR, it’s safe to assume the bigwigs will request more product and I can see this director passing the torch to someone else to continue it. Sadly, the material will not feel the same. For myself, I’m fine with two films and the shorts made under this man’s wings.
4½ Stars out of 5