Bob Parr (Mr. Incredible) is left to care for the kids while Helen (Elastigirl) is out saving the world. (from IMDB)
It’s a risky thing to not only give a beloved movie a sequel, but to wait so long to do so. Pixar Animation Studio’s Finding Nemo saw 13 years before Finding Dory released. And from Toy Story 2 to Toy Story 3, there were 11 years between films (and by the time we get Toy Story 4, there will have been 9 years passed since TS3). But 2004’s The Incredibles has them all beat. It’s been a long 14 years since the release of that film, and fans are finally treated to the long asked-for, long anticipated follow-up to that classy superhero romp. And thankfully, it was worth the wait.
Not all sequels prove to be worth the long time span between releases. It took 20 years to give fans of the cult classic Dumb & Dumber a reprisal and fans will agree across the board that it was nothing short of terribly disappointing. The same can be said for the sequel for 2004’s Anchorman that came 9 years after the first one, and Zoolander 2, which came 15 years after the original as well. At that point, not only does the film have to exceed all expectations, but one has to wonder, “Who really cares anymore?”
Thankfully, with family films like those that Pixar churns out regularly, you either have had an emotional, nostalgic bond with the preceding film in a given franchise… or your child does. I remember seeing the first Toy Story film on the big screen at 15 years old, so any entry since has been really nostalgic for me (and that incinerator scene in Toy Story 3 nearly killed me — you know what I’m talking about!). Similarly, I grew up on Winnie The Pooh, so the trailer alone for the nostalgic Christopher Robin chokes me up each time. But I was relatively newly married and still in my twenties when The Incredibles surprised audiences in 2004, and now I have a son of my own who considers it one of his favorite films (and possibly his favorite Disney film). We weren’t even close to parenthood at the time of the first film’s release — and now the adventures of the Parr family have taken on a whole new meaning.
Incredibles 2 picks up almost immediately after the first film ends. Through a twisty side character perspective, we’re given a recount of what happened after The Underminer showed up, and then we’re treated to a thrilling action sequence involving the Incredibles trying to stop The Underminer from destroying the city. The action sequence is one of the best from either film and it’s just fantastic to see the whole family back in action and working as a team. It’s also in this moment that you realize just how much you wanted this movie and how much you’ve missed these lovable characters!
The story progresses from there to try to undo the government’s laws against superheroes. A fan of supers, especially Frozone, Elastigirl and Mr. Incredible, named Winston Deavor rallies for them and wants to make Elastigirl the face of a new campaign to make supers accepted again. Due to Mr. Incredible (Bob)’s tendency to cause damage with his heroics, Deavor decides Helen is the best option. This then leads to Bob playing more of the Mr. Mom role while Helen gets to play hero again. While it’s more of a role reversal of what we saw in the first movie, it’s taken in a different direction. In the first one, Bob was working for Syndrome’s company in secret, without Helen’s knowledge, which caused a lot of trouble in their marriage. But we didn’t get to see a ton of Elastigirl in action last time either. Here, she gets some of the best action sequences and it’s executed absolutely brilliantly. From her special bike (I won’t spoil what it does here) to bounding across rooftops and investigating a spooky apartment, she’s a joy to follow — even if it’s bittersweet to watch Bob suffer through parenting three growing children… including an infant he suddenly discovers has unbelievable powers! Speaking of — baby Jack-Jack steals the film. He’s a highlight of every scene he’s in and he almost always garners a laugh with his antics. From a face-off with a raccoon to winning over the heart of Edna Mode, Jack-Jack simply owns Incredibles 2.
The content of the film is in line with the first one, but sadly, there is more mild profanity in this film — and it’s slightly jarring to hear. “H*ll” and “d*mned” are both used once, while “Oh my G-d” is used at least three times, along with a use of “Oh L-rd.” Violet also says “Superheroes suck” in a moment of discouragement, and “cr*p” is used twice. Many moviegoers barely consider that to be offensive, but I know some parents won’t be expecting it at all — and, personally, I just found it entirely unnecessary. There’s no sexual content, so the only real remaining content to consider is violence and some scary imagery. My 7 year old son found some hypnosis paraphernalia that Helen discovers in a dark apartment to be pretty scary. He cuddled up to us a couple times and said he was getting freaked out. The villain, “Screenslaver,” also is pretty creepy — especially with his glowing green goggles. When some other characters don these similar goggles, they’ve basically become zombies and it’s a little unsettling at times, even if it’s played for laughs to lighten the mood. Finally, there are a few scenes where we see Helen and Evelyn casually drinking what appears to be hard liquor. It’s not focused on a lot, except for a moment when Evelyn asks Helen if she’s allowed to “drink on the job.”
Before the film, like with the usual Pixar venture, we’re treated to the latest short film, this time titled Bao. This one follows an Asian couple who sit down to eat a dinner of homemade dumplings the wife made. The husband leaves the table as the wife finishes, and her last dumpling comes to life just before she eats it and then sprouts arms and legs. We then see a montage of the woman raising the dumpling and caring for it as if it were a child. As it grows, it takes on the traits of a teenager and starts pushing her away. We then see the dumpling bring home a human woman he plans to marry and, distraught and in a panic at the thought of losing this child, the mother EATS the dumpling child. Most of the audience in our theater gasped, with some of them audibly expressing their confusion. But we soon see that a human son appears in her doorway and we realize that the entire dumpling experience was a fantasy of hers and she’s actually struggling with the thought of her real, biological son getting married and outgrowing her. It’s a deep and emotional short that is a bit much to take in and will confuse most children (I tried to explain it to my son a few times afterwards and he couldn’t get past the fact the mother ate her dumpling “son”). So parents may want to be prepared for a deep conversation about their children growing up…
Overall, Incredibles 2 was a longtime coming and well worth the wait. It’s an exciting and meaty film that is just as good – if not better – than the original. The only thing that is definitely better in the first film is the central villain, but Incredibles 2 otherwise lives up to its name and is a wonderful summer movie!
– John DiBiase (reviewed: 6/18/18)
Blu-Ray Special Features Review
Along with the feature film in HD, the Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital combo pack version of Incredibles 2 offers a series of Extras…
Bao – This is the short story that played before Incredibles 2 in theaters. It follows an elderly Chinese woman suffering from “empty nest” who enters parenthood all over again when one of her dumplings she makes comes to life like a little boy. But we then see her experience the pain and struggle of parenthood all over again as the dumpling grows up.
Auntie Edna (5:07) – This hilarious short shows what happens the night Jack Jack stays over Edna’s lab. We also see new incredible powers for Jack Jack that we’ve never seen before! (1 “Oh my G-d,” 1 “My G-d!”)
Making Bao (6:02) – First-time director Domee Shi talks about how she came up with the concept for Bao, and reveals how she spent a year storyboarding it on her own at first. Domee shares about how the story came to life (and what “Bao” means in Chinese!) and how she wanted it to mirror her own family’s story to a degree–about a Chinese immigrant family who had moved to Toronto (and how she inserted some Canadian imagery into the story to illustrate that). (1 “Oh my G-d”)
Commentary (1:57:49) – There is a feature-length audio commentary track with animators Alan barillaro, Tony Fucile, Dave Mullins and Bret Parker.
The Coolest Guy in Show Business (2:54) – Samuel L. Jackson talks about how he first got into acting and what it was like growing up during the time of racial segregation. His storytelling is illustrated like a comic for the audience, too. It’s pretty neat!
Paths to Pixar: Everyday Heroes (11:38) – The cast and crew of Incredibles 2 reflect on parenting challenges. We see various husband and wife couples, as well as single parents, sharing their challenges as working parents. (Towards the end, they focus on two women who co-parent a daughter as moms. I was bracing myself for something like this to be thrown into here, and I’m not surprised it was. But it’s nonetheless disappointing.)
Behind the Scenes
Strong Coffee: A Lesson in Animation with Brad Bird (18:51) – This great making-of featurette focuses on Brad Bird, what it’s like working with him and what his approach to making these films is. Brad talks first-hand about how he got into animation and how he was mentored by a Disney animator as a young, budding artist. It’s a great little featurette.
Superbaby (4:54) – Two young tween girls rap a song about Jack Jack… that’s all I really have to say about this.
Ralph Eggleston: Production Designer (2:07) – Ralph talks about working as a production designer for Pixar–on Toy Story, Finding Nemo–and what his role is like.
Super Stuff (6:36) – The filmmakers talk about how big (in scope and story and action) this film is and how huge its vision is. They talk about how the first film went for a 50’s design feel and how this one pushes it into the early 60s a bit. And they address how they balanced the fantastic with the mundane. They also talk about the character and warddrobe design, as well as vehicle and set design.
Character Theme Songs gives us short animated theme songs for Elastigirl, Mr. Incredible and Frozone that use clips from both movies to act as official theme videos (almost as if they’re the intro songs to the characters’ own TV shows, if they existed), while Vintage Toy Commercials are new mock commercials for each of the aforementioned characters that mix the theme video with a commercial to mimic old classic toy commercials of the 60s.
SuperScene Breakdowns – For these, the team discuss the process for creating scenes for Elastigirl (10:20) and The Raccoon Fight (10:39) featuring Jack Jack. The women animators and producers sit in a theater and discuss some of Elastigirl’s scenes and how they evolved from the original concepts to the final version (and we see Brad’s original vision for Bob getting angry at home one night before they decided to make him more sympathetic). The women discuss Helen’s character progression throughout the film and what she represents for people. For “The Raccoon Fight,” the men (including Brad Bird) similarly sit in a theater and discuss making this fun sequence, and we even learn that it had been an idea that was pitched back in 2001 for the first film! These are super fun to watch, too.
Heroes & Villains – This is a collection of character featurettes for the following characters: Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl, The Parr Kids, Frozone, Edna Mode, Winston Deaver, Evelyn Deavor, and the Wannabes. We hear from the cast and crew as they talk about the characters, who they are, and how they came to be. Each one is roughly 2 minutes in length, and there is a “Play All” option for these.
Deleted Scenes – There are 10 deleted scenes and an intro video (1:07) from Brad Bird. The scenes are viewable with a “Play All” option, and Brad introduces each scene, talking about how it was supposed to fit in the film and why it was left out or changed. All of these are shown in unfinished, storyboarded form, too. The scenes include “Suburban Escape” (which addresses the family’s life after Syndrome’s plane had destroyed their house at the end of the first film), “Kari Revisited” (where Bob and Helen stop by her home and are surprised she doesn’t remember anything because her mind was wiped), “Return of the Supers” (where Mr. Incredible gives a eulogy for Gazerbeam, who he had found in the first film), “Chewed Out” (where police interrogate the Parrs after their fight with Underminer), “Late Audition” (a rejected superhero freaks out Deavor when he turns his head into a cobra), “Slow Day” (more of Helen on her first day crime fighting again), “Frozone and Honey” (the two argue when his supersuit goes missing), “Restaurant Robbery” (Dash and Violet apprehend two thieves at a diner), “Fashion Show” (Bob interrupts Edna’s runway show, asking for advice), and “Security Breakdown” (Edna and Bob must battle a malfunctioning security system).
Super Moments – “Promos” (4:02) is a collection of “toolkit animation” set to music. Basically, these were little animated bits made to help promote the film in different fashions – including for the Olympics. (I think I remember seeing some of these online too as commercials when the film was hitting theaters).
Trailers for the film–three of them–are also available, while the digital release extras are rounded out with a Cast & Crew breakdown.
– John DiBiase, (reviewed: 11/4/18)
Parental Guide: Content Summary
Sex/Nudity: We see Helen in a bathrobe laying on her hotel bed (with her bare legs visible).
Vulgarity/Language: At least 3 “Oh my G-d,” 1 “Oh L-rd,” 1 “d*mned,” 1 “h*ll,” 2 “cr*p,” 1 “s*ck”
Alcohol/Drugs: Several scenes show people drinking, especially Helen and Evelyn, who seem to be sipping whisky from short glasses in at least two scenes.
Blood/Gore: Elastigirl stumbles upon what appears to be The Screenslaver’s lair and finds models of the human eye on a workbench, which will be unsettling to some viewers.
Violence: Lots of action violence. The opening sequence shows the Incredibles trying to stop the Underminer and his large drill vehicle as it tears up the city; We hear the story of how robbers shot a man’s parents and we see the flashback with one of them holding a revolver sort of at the screen and we see it fire, but do not see the impact of the parents being killed; Elastigirl fights to stop a runaway train; Jack-Jack’s powers wreak havoc throughout the film, almost always played for laughs; Jack-Jack fights with a raccoon outside their home; Elastigirl fights a masked man in a violent action sequence (with bright, flashing lights in a sort of strobe effect); There’s a theme of mind control and being forced to do things against your will; We see superheroes fighting innocent people and other superheroes as part of the mind control. Some of it will be scary for children; A cruise ship almost crashes into a city but is stopped at the last second; and lots of other superhero action violence.