'Incredibles 2' Is a Fast-Paced Action Movie That Took Forever to Arrive
Emerging from the screening room, my retinas still swirling, peppy jazz score rattling around my brain, I bumped into an old pal.
"Whadja think?" he asked.
"It's got a baby that shoots lasers out of his eyes! What do you think I thought?" I fired back.
We laughed. I mean, what kind of maniac doesn't like a movie with a baby that shoots lasers out of its eyes?
Incredibles 2 arrives in theaters 14 years after the first installment, and the leaps in computer animation technology are superpowered. Everything bashes, stretches and zooms with in ways we could heretofore only dream of. Michael Giacchino's excellent, brassy Lalo Schifrin-inspired soundtrack propels almost every scene. This is a movie set to high speed and high volume, and that dazzle more than patches over rudimentary problems like, I dunno, being not-that-original.
Story-wise, Incredibles 2 starts mere moments after the 2004 installment left off. Put the two movies side-by-side and it's essentially one loop. Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl and their two kids Violet and Dash appeared ready, at the end of their last adventure, to embrace their Nietzschean will to power in ways that were productive to society. But that was just a head-fake. Their special abilities are illegal once more: "The program is being shut down."
Also surprising: Even though we saw that the baby, Jack-Jack, had an array of powers, I guess no one from the family was looking. When the tyke makes unpredictable transformations, it's a surprise to everyone. (Not a bad thing, as the funniest sequence in the movie, and one that may inspire spin-off shorts, comes when the baby tests his talents against a very temperamental raccoon.)
Powers in the Incredi-verse are strange. The Holly Hunter-voiced Elastigirl (and, hey, shouldn't it Elasti-woman?) is a riff on the Fantastic Four's stretchy Reed Richards. Daughter Violet (Sarah Vowell) can do what that group's Sue Storm can do (bend light to become invisible, but also create protective energy spheres.) Dash (Huck Milner) is basically DC Comics' The Flash (e.g. fast) and paterfamilias Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) is, uh, strong. Friend-of-the-family Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) is the only one whose ability ever gets any explanation: If he is around water (or has some "in" him), he can transform it into ice.
Why am I hung up on this? God only knows, but you have to think about something while the brain-rattling chases are flying around on the screen. The plot of this movie isn't going to engage you, I can tell you that much. As with the first film, a seeming benefactor wants to help our heroes be all that they can be, but you know this is a ruse. (Points to writer-director Brad Bird for sticking with a concept he loves, I guess.) This time it is Mom who is pressed into super-service first, while Dad has to stay home and contend with Dash's homework, Violet's first date, and Jack-Jack crawling around and getting into pan-dimensional trouble.
Eventually the family all joins forces to race, dive, teleport and smash their way to save one another from the clutches of evil. It's nice! Brings a tear to your eye, truly. (My favorite character is Violet, but maybe that's just because I've got an NPR tote or two around the house and I like to hear Sarah Vowell talk about something other than the Bull Moose Party.)
Is Incredibles 2 as good as the first? The answer depends on what you are looking for in a Pixar movie. If it's the story and, as the kids say, the "feels," then the answer is no. But if it's the pure thrill of intense high-tech animation, then absolutely. There's a moment in which Elastigirl has to fight the spooky villain Screenslaver (who has an eerie World War I gas mask look) that blasts the screen with a mix of 2-D and 3-D animation. I bet somebody's gonna see it and have a seizure! It's quite a thing.
Unlike the Toy Story trilogy, which is too maudlin for my tastes, and the Cars trilogy, which is simply beneath someone as urbane and sophisticated as I, the two Incredibles movies are just the right speed. And when the family car is the tricked-out "Incredi-bile," that speed has no limit.