A rare sequel that is nearly as good as the first movie, Incredibles 2 triumphs by refusing to tinker with its winning elements. Brad Bird’s animated movie features beautifully textured animation, kinetic set pieces, pitch-perfect voice work, a superb jazzy score by Michael Giacchino and a continued focus on family dynamics. The animation has as much smoothness, depth and humour as the first film, but Bird never forgets the reason The Incredibles (2004) worked so well: he made us care for its characters.
One of the smartest decisions is to take off exactly from where the first film left off: the superhero Parr family is locked in mid-town Manhattan battle with the Underminer. During the battle, Violet (voiced by Sarah Vowell), the eldest daughter who can create force shields, is spotted by her classmate on whom she has a crush, causing immense anguish in the later reels. Meanwhile, the Parrs and their friend Frozone (voiced by Samuel L Jackson) are once again accused of leaving too much rubble in the wake of their victory, and are yet again banished into ordinariness.
A new patron arrives in the form of entrepreneur and superhero fan Winston (voiced by Bob Odenkirk) and his slinky inventor sister Evelyn (voiced by Catherine Keener). Winston offers to make Helen Parr (voiced by Holly Hunter) the face of a superhero revival, saddling Bob Parr (voiced by Craig T Nelson) with babysitting an increasingly grumpy Violet, son Dash (voiced by Huck Milner) and the infant Jack-Jack (voiced by Eli Fucile). As Bob changes diapers and gives Dash mathematics lessons while dealing with Violet’s first steps towards adolescence, he realises, to his horror and the delight of audiences, that Jack-Jack has more superpowers than all the Parrs combined. Even the child-hating eccentric fashion designer Edna Mode (voiced by Brad Bird) cannot resist Jack-Jack, and nobody will blame her.
Meanwhile, a mysterious villain named Screensaver is trying to conquer the world through mass hypnosis, sending Helen into battle.
The gender role reversal gives more room to Helen while also exploiting the humour that results from Bob’s ham-fisted attempts to father his wards. Some of the domestic scenes are sluggish, but Bird reserves his ballast for the thrilling extended climax, which involves a complicated bust-up on a ship in the middle of the ocean before taking to the air, as did the first film, and ending with enough ideas for a third movie.
The retro feel of the original film survives in the sequel, but the nods to the Avengers and the X-Men films through the creation of a superhero club means that some aspects gets neglected. Some more superheroes have been added in the second movie, and at least one of them (Voyd, voiced by Sophia Bush) looks like she will be around for the inevitable third outing. But the movie still hasn’t given Frozone enough to do beyond conjuring up icy blockades.
The domestic equation between Helen and Bob shifts only marginally after the wife gets to shine while the husband stays at home, and Holly Hunter’s raspy exasperation, which worked so beautifully in the first movie, doesn’t have anywhere in land in Incredibles 2.
Helen’s spirited fight against the antagonist who remains hidden in plain sight ultimately pales before the antics of her youngest child. Jack-Jack’s hectic personality changes, complete lack of self-consciousness befitting his infant status, and infectious giggles are truly incredible and power the sequel to dizzying heights, sometimes very literally.