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Awesome: 16.67%
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1 review, 6 user ratings

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Incredibles 2
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Maybe Not Incredible, But Pretty Good."
4 stars

When “The Incredibles” was release in 2004 to near-universal acclaim, superhero films had not quite begun to totally dominate the film industry in the way that they do today and as a result, writer-director Brad Bird’s keenly felt homage to the genre felt fresh, exciting and funny while at the same time offering surprisingly nuanced takes on such subjects as balancing work and family and the pains and pleasures of being special and unique in a world that oftentimes simply finds it easier to embrace mediocrity instead. The result was both one of Pixar’s finest films and one worthy of belonging placed alongside “Superman: The Movie” (1978), “Hulk” (2003), “Spider-Man 2” (2004,” the Christopher Nolan “Batman” films and the current “Black Panther” as one of the greatest superhero movies ever made. Now, “Incredibles 2” has finally arrived and the good news is that it is fast, funny, often visually stunning and should prove to be entertaining enough for young and old viewers alike, even those who were not even born when the original came out 14 years ago. The bad news is that while it is never less than entertaining to watch and certainly preferable to the likes of “Avengers: Infinity War” or “Deadpool 2” as superhero movies go, it lacks the additional grace notes that made the original so much more than just another action-packed extravaganza.

The film picks up exactly where the previous film left off 14 years earlier as the Parr family—parents Bob a.k.a. Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson), and Helen a.k.a. Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), sullen teen daughter Violet (Sarah Vowell), troublemaking middle son Dash (Huck Milner) and baby Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile)—assume their crime-fighting identities as The Incredibles and go into battle against the Underminer (John Ratzenberger), a nefarious thief whose trademark is a gigantic pneumatic drill that eventually goes running haywire on the streets of the city. Alas, superheroes have still been deemed illegal and their attempts to stop the Underminer and his drill do not end particularly well, it does not exactly bolster their case for the legalization of superheroes. It appears that the Parrs will be forced to live their lives as ordinary people while keeping their powers forever under wraps when they, along with fellow hero Lucius Best a.k.a. Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson), are summoned to meet with telecommunications zillionaire Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) and his tech genius sister Evelyn (Catherine Keener) about a proposal he has. A fan of superheroes who wants to see them reinstated, Winston proposes a publicity campaign to gain public favor for legalization by having one of them going out and saving the day in defiance of the law.

As she tends to leave the least amount of destruction in her wake, Helen is selected to be the public face for this endeavor and goes off to the metropolis of New Urbrem in the hopes of fighting crime. This leaves Bob to stay at home, in one of Winston’s insanely tricked-out abodes, to take care of the kids by himself. Of course, this proves to be much harder for him to pull off than expected, what with inadvertently ruining Violet’s date with a cute boy at school, his inability to help Dash with his homework (damn that new math crap) and his difficulties with Jack-Jack regarding bedtime and coming to terms with his rapidly emerging collection of wild superpowers. While he is doing all of that, Helen finds herself stopping both a monorail disaster and an air attack on the Ambassador (Isabella Rossellini) that appear to be the work of The Screenslaver, a diabolical villain with the ability to hijack any video screen and send out hypnotic transmissions that will instantly hypnotize anyone who watches them. Of course, nothing is quite as it seems and when the identity and the agenda of The Screenslaver are finally revealed, it once again falls to the Parrs to work together as a family unit—yes, even Jack-Jack—to save the day.

The good news is that, for the most part, “Incredibles 2” has a lot going for it in most of the key areas. Writer-director Brad Bird is a director with a keen visual eye and a flair for staging action sequences that find the right balance between the goofy and the exciting—there is a fight scene between Elastigirl and the ScreenSlaver in the latter’s lair that is as visually startling and breathtaking as anything that you are likely to see in a theater this summer. He is also an expert at crafting and executing brilliant sight gags that inspire huge laughs without ever descending into simple silliness—this is best exemplified by the developments regarding Jack-Jack’s blossoming superpowers, a running gag that starts off funny enough and somehow manages to top itself with each subsequent iteration. He also knows how to keep things moving along at a steady pace without ever becoming too frantic or letting things sag—even though it clocks in at a hair under two hours, you don’t come out of it feeling exhausted like you sometimes do with family-oriented movies that feel they have to keep kids in a constant state of stimulation throughout.

His greatest genius, at least in regards to his animated work, may be in regards to his casting of the vocal talent. Most animated films try to find the biggest names to do the voices but Pixar in general and Bird in particular are adept at finding the right ones. To be perfectly honest, the presence of Holly Hunter, Craig T. Nelson and Sarah Vowell alone probably did not sell more than a handful of tickets the first time around. However, I dare you to think of three other performers that could have filled their roles as wonderfully as they did. The three, along with Samuel L. Jackson, have all returned and all deliver inspired and full-bodied performances that are as committed as any flesh-and-blood performances that you could name. Among the newcomers, Bob Odenkirk and Catherine Keener, two more actors who will mean little to the film’s target audience, are inspired casting choices as the Deavor siblings and to hear the dulcet tones of Isabella Rossellini as the Ambassador is a sheer delight. And yes, Bird himself returns to once again essay the role of the inimitable superhero fashion designer (and stealth babysitter) Edna Mode and without giving anything away, he pretty much steals his own movie whenever she is on.

The problem with “Incredibles 2” is that while it is entertaining enough, it is a curiously unambitious one—something that is especially odd coming from Bird, a filmmaker who generally thrives on trying new things. Perhaps the glut of superhero movies that has emerged in the 14 years since the release of the original has become so overwhelming that, at least from a story perspective, the prediction of the first film’s villain, Syndrome, has come true and such characters simply aren’t all that special anymore. In the original film, it was the dynamics of the family members, both individually and collectively, not the action set pieces, that really carried things along and gave the material the kind of emotional heft that caused it to resonate with so many viewers over the years. This time around, there are some story points that are meant to ring true with viewers but the problem is that most of them feel just like that—like story points with no real integration or follow-through to be had. Elastigirl getting the chance to step out of her alpha male husband’s shadow and show what she is capable of is nifty enough (though I would have like to see her insist on being called ElastiWoman) because it feels like it comes from a real place, in no small thanks to Hunter’s performance. By comparison, while we felt for Bob the first time around in has frustration at being forced to conceal his powers and work a dead-end job at an insurance agency, watching him struggle to run a household, fix Violet’s boyfriend problems and explain that base 10 crap to Dash is not nearly as interesting. I don’t know if this is a response to the critical and commercial drubbing that Bird suffered over his last film, the ambitious but enormously flawed “Tomorrowland” (2015), or not but “Incredibles 2” has a play-it-safe feel to it that is more than a little disconcerting when coming from someone like who can usually be counted on for originality. (Whatever the flaws of “Tomorrowland”—and they were legion—it at least tried to do something different.)

Make no mistake about it, I enjoyed”Incredibles 2” and my guess is that you and your families will like it even more than I did (though it should be noted that some of the action beats may be a tad too intense for younger viewers). It is smart, funny and always exciting to watch and in most cases, that would be more than enough for an ordinary movie. The trouble here is that, between the impact of the first film and the track record of its creator, this is not an ordinary film and it just never quite lives up to the exceedingly high standards that serve as its baggage. This is a film that is quite good, to be sure, but it is never truly incredible.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Like the other recent Pixar films, “Incredibles 2” is prefaced by a short, this one an Asian-influenced one called “Bao.” I am fully aware that it is meant to be sweet-natured and touching and symbolic and all that but I have to admit that for various reasons, none of which I can describe without spoiling things, it is one of the creepiest and ickiest things that I have seen in a long time—this could play in the opening slot of a festival dedicated to the works of David Cronenberg and still be considered the most shudder-worthy title in the program. Now there is always the chance that I am overreacting and reading way too much into the whole thing but I suspect that is not the case. Either way, if you in the market for good old-fashioned nightmare fuel of epic proportions, be sure to show up on time for “Incredibles 2” and bask in the grimness that is “Bao.”

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=29797&reviewer=389
originally posted: 06/14/18 14:32:17
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User Comments

5/28/19 Dr. Lao No real surprises, but not bad 3 stars
11/09/18 Louise Fast, furious and magnificently entertaining. One of THE best films i`ve EVER seen ! ! !. 5 stars
6/18/18 Bob Dog Much better than the mediocre original - more of an adult story than kids' movie. 4 stars
6/18/18 Lead Bao was atrocious. Worst Disney short ever. 3 stars
6/15/18 morris campbell not as good as the 1st but a good sequel IMHO 4 stars
6/15/18 teddy crescendo Totally amazing and astounding, pure genius. 5 stars
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