You can’t help but marvel at the irony that the one Pixar movie that genuinely set itself up for a sequel would become one of the last to earn itself said franchise privilege. Not that the fourteen year gap between The Incredibles and Incredibles 2 has slowed down the animation giant at all – with Incredibles 2 – as long in the tooth as it may have been getting here – offering up more of the romping adventurous delights that fans came to love oh so many years ago, and even taking the beloved superheroes into startlingly relevant and timely terrain as it goes.
Picking up mere moments after the close of the 2004 original, the sequel sees the now-public superhero family forced back into hiding as mom Helen (aka. Elastigirl) is recruited to become the face of a new PR campaign conceived to bring superheroes back into public favour. No longer needed on the front lines, the move leaves the newly revitalised Bob (aka. Mr. Incredible) forced to assume parental and household duties, something the mighty protector of Municiberg finds difficult enough, and finds next to impossible when faced with the challenge of baby Jack-Jack’s newly emerging crop of powers.
Despite having been written several years back (owing to the nature of animation), there’s something almost jaggedly 2018 about the subjects this deftly confident CG sequel chooses to tackle head-on. The sexism of the working world is brought front and centre for a good ol’ fashioned skewering here, and both Craig T. Nelson and Holly Hunter (effortlessly slipping back into their Mr. and Mrs. Incredible roles without missing a beat). The superhero element, too, feels fresher and more vividly brought to life – Incredibles 2 vivaciously gripping on to the resurgence of superheroes in the years since its predecessor and taking the opportunity to show off just how much fun the genre can really have when live-action isn’t a consideration.
There’s crowd-pleasing inclusions, naturally, with out-of-control baby Jack-Jack as much fun as you’d hope, the kids getting more coming-of-age drama to sink their teeth into, and fan-favourite Edna Mode not only getting a bigger spotlight in which to shine, but also bringing with her some new (and outright hilarious) facets for good measure. Meanwhile, series newcomers Bob Odenkirk and Catherine Keener prove solid additions to the roster, with a cheekily-twisty story providing ample opportunity for each to send up their own particular level of typecasting.
For all of its successes though, Incredibles 2 is narratively not quite up to the AAA status of its 2004 series launcher, with the dramatic domestic elements of the story noticeably lacking the kitchen sink gristle that made The Incredibles so wholly unique in its arrival. Those scenes are there – and there’s fun to be had, certainly, in watching Mr. Incredible struggle with teenage dating and algebra – but with Elastigirl removed from so much of the story “at home”, said home becomes an infinitely less engaging place and pushes attention back toward the overall plot in a way handled far better previously.
Said diversion though is of little grander consequence though in the face of a sequel as unabashedly breezy as writer-director Brad Bird has given us here. Composer Michael Giacchino returns with a rollicking retro score, the animation’s as top shelf as Pixar have ever delivered, and there’s even a cool shift from the design aesthetic of the Bruce Timm-inspired forties veneer to something a bit more Jetsons as this intriguing animated world continues to open up before us. It’s a great time to be had – a wild ride for the kids and a fun suburban-tinged superhero tale for the adults – and whilst it may not be outright incredible, Incredibles 2 is an A grade sequel that will satisfy the desire for more from the Parr family, with just enough of an expansion to their universe to show us what the Fantastic Five can really do in what’s ultimately the animated adventure of the year so far.
Incredibles 2 is in cinemas nationwide from Friday, July 13th; rated PG. Check out the trailer below.