Friday, 20 July 2018

Film Review - Incredibles 2 (PG)

You're not good. You're super.
The Incredibles came to our screens in 2004 and had an ending that fairly screamed 'sequel on the way'. Wisely creator/director Brad Bird did not rush to work on the follow-up, letting his ideas marinade while he got stuck into projects such as RatatouilleMission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol and Tomorrowland. Fourteen years on the superhero family is finally back, fuelled by fresh visuals, well-developed character dynamics and outrageous humour. The story's pretty solid too.
If you recall the original, the Incredibles are the Parr family, a quartet of extravagantly gifted humans forced into a banal suburban existence due to the US government's ban on 'Supers'. Incredibles 2 finds them embracing their powers, yet still frustrated by authorities that wants to shut down their familial crime-fighting efforts. In step Winston and Evelyn Deavor (voiced by Bob Odenkirk and Catherine Keener), a slick brother/sister PR firm ready to rehabilitate the whole Super image. They select mom Helen (the eye-poppingly springy Elastigirl) to carry out all the heroics under their auspices, while a disgruntled Mr Incredible (Bob) stays home looking after the kids. 
It's a neat and nicely subversive division of labour. She's out chasing runaway trains and wrangling with a new super-villain nemesis, while he's mired in mundane chores that gradually drive him insane. Voiced with middle-aged frustration by Craig T. Nelson, Mr Incredible is now occupied by his son's baffling maths homework and his daughter's tentative explorations in dating, when he yearns to be out punching bad-guys. Add to that baby Jack-Jack, an infant who is starting to unleash a terrifying range of superpowers with gurgling abandon, and you have yourself sheer comedy platinum. 
There's much to impress in the movie as a whole and how it advances (and enhances) the Incredibles world. The '60s-based futurism looks even better than - a Connery-era James Bond aesthetic with a John Barry-esque big-band score to compliment it. Bird's witty and intelligent script undergirds all the craziness, dealing with everything from sexual politics to the effect of hero-worship on society. And the slam-bang action is a directorial miracle at all points, combining a dozen different elements with absolute coherence, however breakneck the pace. 
Technically stunning though these sequences are, they do ultimately exhaust, reminding me of what I felt during the original film... It's the domestic sitcom and parody elements that really make the Incredibles work. The new movie excels in scenes where Mr Incredible interacts with his cute-but-semi-demonic baby son, or mortifies his daughter through well-meaning interference in her love-life. Wallflower teen Violet aka Invisigirl is a lovely comic creation, it should be said, never more so than in a vividly disastrous diner scene. Also good value are the Parrs' superhero neighbour Frozone (a kind of Shaft in spandex voiced by Samuel L. Jackson) and diminutive 'Super' fashion designer Edna Mode, voiced by the director in a deliriously funny extended cameo (Edna is too rich and scene-stealing a character to be used more than sparingly). 
Incredibles 2 never fails to entertain and is peppered with moments of inspiration. There are points, however, where I wanted the story to breathe, rather than belt along so furiously. The Parrs' family interactions are the heart of this franchise and the best part of it. Ironically in a film this big, it's the small stuff that proves genuinely memorable.
Gut Reaction: Overwhelmed at times by the incredible (ha!) visuals. But laughing always at the lower-key domestic disasters and sweetly judged moments of character comedy.

Where Are the Women?: Brad Bird's world of Supers is populated with strong female characters, not least of which is Holly Hunter's wry and super-strong Elastigirl.

Ed's Verdict: 8/10. While the Incredibles movies are not my absolute Pixar favourites (Coco personally has the edge for me this year), this is still a finely-crafted piece of work, full of character and at its best absolutely hilarious. Welcome back, this Super family.

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