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Movie Review: Incredibles 2 is almost as Super as the first

Buena Vista Pictures
Buena Vista Pictures

After an excruciating fourteen year wait, Incredibles 2 has arrived in cinemas. This direct continuation of 2004’s The Incredibles is filled with the same spunk, edge and adventurous warmth that made the original an animated triumph. Best of all, it comes close to the lofty heights of its predecessor.

Since Pixar’s bombardment of average to good sequels began in 2011, this one has been the most requested and anticipated among audiences. It’s expected to set new box office records for animation this weekend and rightly so.

The essential experience for those seeing it has the nostalgia and winsome action that made the first movie so likeable. It’s only real downfall is exactly that: It capitalizes so heavily on the style and powerful characterizations of the first movie that it never becomes its own original product.

But we’ll come back to this. For the most part, the film as a whole feels super.

The movie begins right where the first one left off. After a messy fight to save the day, the Parr family (aka The Incredibles!) are approached by company DevTech to lobby for the re-legalization of superheroes. Those plans are interrupted by a new house, growing super-baby Jack-Jack, and the menacing Screenslaver bent on enslavement.

It's sometimes easy to see what's coming - but it feels okay

While the less subtle foreshadowing is more predictable in this sequel, the plot is equally rich and the intimate scenes make great drama. The jokes are funny, the story is morally sound and interesting, and everything seamlessly fits together.

It’s hard to be innovative in a direct sequel like this because revisiting a theme and maturing one are different things. Incredibles 2 is about the balance of power and the responsibility of heroism. Is it selfish or selfless? What are the ethics of encountering evil? These are the same questions the first one did.

Just because a different character is faced with a moral dilemma doesn’t make something new. These are great ideas to share, and its especially great to see them in a family movie that makes it digestible for everyone.

Incredibles 2

But the audience went on this journey once before. Toy Story is a great series where each new movie found a way to elevate the stakes and further develop the problem. Incredibles 2 feels more like Finding Dory; while it’s expertly made and entertaining, it falls short of greatness because it doesn’t grow beyond what perfected the first installment. It doesn't grow; it just continues.

The Incredibles franchise is most innovative because their superhero story is backseat to the Parr family’s management of their secret identities. In this sequel, the tangible superhero elements are the coolest. One of the toughest things in this genre is to make a compelling villain, and the dangerous, maniacal Screenslaver is fascinating to watch.

Pixar proves they remain the gold standard for animation

Technically speaking, the animators at Pixar continue to outdo themselves with endless skill and creativity. The studio’s whimsical, intelligent art direction and character design are second to none in Hollywood. And those human characters improve the same charm and definition that highlighted the first Incredibles.

(That movie itself was Pixar’s first movie with a principal human cast. Before then it was only toys, bugs, fish and monsters.)

At the end of the day, this is a summer animated adventure for families. It never quite reaches the dramatic heights of Pixar’s early years, but the final product is a true spectacle. It’s heartfelt, smart, fast-paced and hilariously charming.

This truly is one of those rare family films nowadays that has the same appeal and interest for adults and children. One warning that is worth mentioning: those with epilepsy may be triggered by two fight scenes. The villain works by hypnotizing their victims, which includes some full-screen blue strobe lights.

Even without intensifying the conflicts, Incredibles 2 is still progressive and engaging in ways most movies aren’t. The superhero genre didn’t need saving. But maybe family films did. And the terrific movie now playing is truly and simply….well, you know.

Incredibles 2
3 1/2 out of 4 stars

PG, 1hrs 58mins. Animated Family Superhero Adventure.
Written and Directed by Brad Bird.
Starring Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, Huck Milner, Bob Odenkirk, Catharine Keener and Samuel L. Jackson.
Now Playing at Film.Ca Cinemas, Cineplex Winston Churchill and Cineplex Oakville & VIP. Also in IMAX.