Fourteen years is a pretty long time to wait for a sequel, even by Disney/Pixar standards. Since the first Incredibles movie, we've gotten a third Toy Story with a fourth on the way, all three Cars films, a Monsters, Inc. prequel and a follow-up to Finding Nemo -- all of which is to say the pressure for Incredibles 2 to deliver was intense to say the least.
Thankfully, if writer/director Brad Bird and his crew were feeling the weight of the world's expectations on their shoulders, they absolutely didn't show it. Incredibles 2 delivers a welcome and fresh return to the Parr family, stacked to the brim with laugh-out-loud gags, heartfelt moments and only a few minor missteps.
Ironically, despite the real-time gap between the two films, Incredibles 2 picks up almost immediately after the end of the first movie. Virtually no time at all has passed, exemplified by the children's overall lack of aging. That doesn't mean you need to be completely up-to-date on your Incredibles lore or anything, but it does make for a pretty fun set up -- almost nothing has really changed between the two movies. Superheroes are still illegal, the Parrs are still being (sort of) bank rolled by a government agency, they're in between homes and living in a hotel, trying to protect their identities in a world that still doesn't really trust or want superheroes.
That's where we find them now, as the agency that's been supporting them is on its last legs and the family is at a crossroads. Bob (Craig T. Nelson) or Helen (Holly Hunter) are going to need to get a real job again soon to support their kids -- Violet (Sarah Vowell), Dash (Huck Milner) and baby Jack-Jack. Thankfully, they don't have to look too far when private benefactor/superhero fan Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) and his sister, Evelyn (Catherine Keener), intervene with a potential solution.
Yet it's a solution that puts Helen -- back as Elastigirl -- in the spotlight and leaves Mr. Incredible behind with the family, essentially inverting the dynamic of the first film full stop.
Now, on paper (and in the trailers) it looks like this is a setup for a lot of comedy about Bob being jealous of his wife, or of Helen feeling guilty about pursuing her own career rather than staying home with the kids. Yes, there is some of that present -- but neither Bob nor Helen really undergo that particular arc. Thankfully, Incredibles 2 is much more self aware, and artfully dodges a lot of the tired tropes associated with husband-wife role-swaps. Instead, it uses the change in status quo to tell a genuinely heartwarming story of personal growth for every member of the family as they learn to adapt to change.
And perhaps no character changes quite as much as baby Jack-Jack who spends the bulk of the movie as a walking, talking (or, well, babbling) joke machine. Gleefully animated and hilariously timed, he never overstays his welcome or veers too hard into obnoxious territory, but just about every instance of Jack-Jack on screen is full-bore comedy. His moments are some of Pixar's funniest work as far as physical comedy is concerned, and the chaos he creates. It's sometimes a bit self-indulgent in terms of actually serving any sort of plot, but it's an absolute riot.
Plot-wise, Incredibles 2 is pretty predictable. It doesn't necessarily go out of it's way to surprise and, honestly, could have benefited from taking a few more risks. The twists and turns are mostly obvious and the flow of the story doesn't venture into territory that hasn't been mapped -- but that's less a complaint and more an observation. It doesn't really try to comment on the state of superhero movies today or wax poetic about the pre-Marvel Cinematic Universe days of yore and Incredibles the first, and it absolutely doesn't need to. Instead, it stays comfortably in its own wheelhouse, serving up a family drama and slapstick comedy with superpowers as the garnish rather than the main course.
Incredibles 2 sits as a more than worthy entry into the pantheon of Pixar sequels and a bright, stylish, hilarious return to the Parr family's high-flying, Silver Age-flavored world.
Directed and written by Brad Bird, Incredibles 2 is in theaters on June 15.