REVIEW: The Incredibles 2 — Delightful Fun Worth the Wait

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It’s been a long 14 year wait for a sequel to Disney Pixar’s The Incredibles, as evidenced by the internet’s memes from enthusiastic adults who made up a large chunk of film’s audience in its opening weekend. If you haven’t done so already, check out #Frozone on Twitter for videos and pictures of fans who dressed up as Frozone, because it’s—for lack of a better word—incredible. The nostalgia of the generation who were kids when the first movie was released in 2004 helped give The Incredibles 2 the biggest opening ever for an animated film, raking in a whopping $180 million. That number is only expected to climb as the movie opens in other countries and people return for repeat viewings.

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While it’s been over a decade for the audience, The Incredibles 2 picks up immediately after the first film. Supers are still illegal, and following the damage incurred by The Incredibles’ latest crime fighting incident, law enforcement has had it with their interference. Stuck in a motel without any options, Helen Parr, AKA Elastigirl, strikes a deal with Winston Deavor, a superhero fanboy and telecommunications tycoon. A believer in all the good that supers should be allowed to do for their cities, Deavor and his company DEVTECH launch a media campaign to garner the public’s support for legalizing supers. While Bob (Mr. Incredible) stays at home as the kids’ primary caregiver, Elastigirl takes the spotlight as a new threat named the Screenslaver wreaks chaos and terror across the city.

The chance to see these characters again makes The Incredibles 2 well worth the wait. There’s no glaring criticisms to be found here—some may take issue with the traces of predictability in the plot, but for a superhero film trying to make a dent in a world where superhero films are now everywhere, it’s a really good one. It’s not just a solid, well-written and paced superhero film, but a stellar animated feature.

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The Incredibles had some wonderful animation, but the sequel shows off just how far the industry has come in terms of technology and style. The cinematography is crisp and breathtaking, the film visually stunning from start to finish. Whether it’s the mid-century modern aesthetic—from the retro interiors to the intricately detailed cars—or the vivid sunsets, cityscapes, and the characters themselves, it’s a pure delight to take in. The retro Americana vibe pairs well with the superhero mythos, and this time it feels more lived in after the first film’s worldbuilding. Michael Giacchino’s jazzy, triumphant, and sweeping score ties all of these elements together perfectly.

The visuals also lend themselves to the action-packed plot; this story is full of sleek chase scenes and edge-of-your-seat, family-friendly crime fighting. Pulling Elastigirl to the forefront is a smart choice, not only for the film’s positive, feminist message, but also because her fight scenes are so much more interesting. Her abilities are varied and nothing short of a breathless spectacle, twisting and stretching her way to each victory. It’s a nice change to see her reveling in her heroism, enjoying the thrill of her job, and playfully trampling on Bob’s initial complaints about being the stay-at-home parent out of the spotlight. She’s a compelling character, and the balance of her duties as a mom and her responsibilities as a super offer both heartwarming and humorous moments.

What makes The Incredibles franchise so beloved—and the core of its sequel that holds the film together—is its characters. Fan favorites Frozone and Edna Mode return in dramatic fashion, and Jack-Jack steals the show with laugh-out-loud sequences while juggling his frantic, unpredictable powers. The Incredibles 2’s character-driven plot leads to some satisfying emotional dynamics and character development, especially between Bob, Dash, and Violet. Feeling jealous and emasculated by his wife’s latest endeavor, Bob has to take a backseat and sharpen his parenting skills.

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The bitter husband annoyed by his successful wife plot is familiar, but it’s refreshing to see Bob take his new role in stride. After he realizes that his task is to support Helen in this way, he really steps up and he has some touching opportunities to connect with Dash and Violet. Bob also has to deal with Jack-Jack’s out of control powers, a plot thread that gives the narrative its strongest comedic moments.

At the center of all this is the family’s dynamics: they’re likeable because they’re relatable and slightly dysfunctional in a way that audiences understand. They aren’t perfect, but somehow they manage to save the day and save lives—including their own. Dash and Violet bicker like any siblings would, but the last act of the film sees the two of them (and Jack-Jack) working together despite this. And they seem more in control of their powers in this sequel; Violet especially has gained confidence following the last film and really steps up in her role as well. The family’s combined teamwork really makes the payoff of the emotional arcs in the film the most satisfying.

With razor sharp wit, relevant one-liners, and social commentary, The Incredibles 2 is a worthy sequel and a genuinely fun, entertaining, and enjoyable film.

While theaters have started to post proper warnings (after an internet campaign warned audiences), a good chunk of the plot involves flashing lights and strobe effects that go on for a few minutes. Anyone with photosensitive epilepsy should be cautious about viewing the film.

It’s also notable to mention that the preceding Pixar short film, Bao, is just as adorable and heart wrenching as you’d expect a Pixar short film to be. Written and directed by Domee Shi, it explores the struggles of a Chinese mother experiencing empty nest syndrome when one of the dumplings she makes comes to life. It’s quirky and at times wonderfully dark, telling an emotional journey with zero dialogue, stirring music, and gorgeous animation. And it will make you cry. Shi is the first woman to direct a Pixar short in the studio’s history, and it feels right to pair Bao with a superhero film fronted by a badass mom.