After a 14-year hiatus, the Parr family returns for more superhero shenanigans in Pixar's Incredibles 2, a sequel that continues the zippy, funny spirit of the original. It's not as good as the first, but it still finds a ranking near the top of Pixar's best, and it's their best "sequel" since Toy Story 3.
The film picks up where the last one left off, with a criminal named Underminer (voice of the ever Pixar-present John Ratzenberger) looking to cause some early movie trouble and teen Violet Parr (Sarah Vowell, reprising her role even though she's well past her teens) meeting a boy. Superheroes remain somewhat in hiding, but rich tycoon Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) is looking to change that.
Winston hatches a plan to get superheroes back in the limelight, and that plan involves Elastigirl/Helen (Holly Hunter) on a crazy new motorbike fighting crime and gaining publicity. While she's out getting her superhero groove back on, Mr. Incredible/Bob (Craig T. Nelson) must stay at home and take care of the kids, including Violet, Dash (Huck Milner) and baby Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile). To recap the children's powers, Violet can go invisible and produce force fields and Dash is really fast.
Jack-Jack, as we found out near the end of the original, has emerging powers, and now Bob is witnessing them all. The youngest Parr can do a lot of things, including reproduce himself, journey to other dimensions, catch fire like the Human Torch and turn himself into a demon baby. The Jack-Jack subplot gets a lot of laughs, most of them out of the baby's sheer amusement with himself.
Of course, Bob's superpowers will be needed again, and the whole family will be back in play to save the world from comical baddies. While the film feels a bit repetitive at times, the likes of Hunter, Nelson and Samuel L. Jackson returning as Frozone keep it consistently entertaining. And Brad Bird himself returns as the voice of fashion guru Edna Mode, who becomes Auntie Edna when Jack-Jack is in dire need of a babysitter. Make no mistake, it's Jack-Jack and his cookie craving craziness that steal the show this time.
As with the original, it's the little nuances that make the Incredibles so much fun. I still love how Elastigirl's curved mouth when she talks is a direct ode to Hunter's actual face, and Violet's teen angst continues to be hilarious animated fare. The original Incredibles was groundbreaking for its onscreen action, and this one continues in that tradition. There's also a memorable new villain in Screenslaver, an entity that hypnotizes people into submission via video screens. No doubt, this is a nod to our modern-day attachment to screened devices.
In a nice piece of stunt casting, the character of Rick Dicker, voiced in the original by the late Bud Luckey, has been recast with the voice of Jonathan Banks. Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul fans know Banks as Saul's (Odenkirk) occasional partner-in-crime in those shows, so having both their voices in a movie is neat stuff for geeks.
It's a little odd that the suddenly sequel-happy Pixar took so long to give the Parrs another chapter. The reason for the wait falls squarely on writer-director Bird's shoulders. Bird created the characters, and Pixar gave him autonomy when it came to giving them another chapter. Evidently, Bird wasn't in any kind of rush, and we might have to wait another decade plus for another chapter.
That's okay. While the Incredibles are clearly ripe for many stories, one great chapter (the original) and another very good one (this installment) make for a nice, complete franchise, and a surefire good time for everybody in the family this summer movie-going season.