Triumphant, dare I say it, incredible?
Animation has come a long way since the arrival of Pixar’s flagship superhero family 14 years ago. It’s no wonder why that, despite the immediate continuation from the predecessor, the visuals are a stunningly noticeable upgrade. Carrying on from where we seen them last, ready to fight the nefarious Underminer who is intent on destroying the city, Brad Bird’s family return is seamlessly natural, and very, very good.
Superheroes are, you guessed it, still illegal. After being thrown away by the police again, an opportunity arises. Winston and Evelyn Deaver (Bob Odenkirk and Catherine Keener) run DevTech, a telecommunications company with a passion for ‘supers’. In the interest of inspiring a worldwide legalisation of superheroes, allowing them to do as they please (imagine the Sokovia Accords reversed), they recruit Mr Incredible (Craig Nelson), Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) and Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) to be their campaign’s poster candidates. But there’s a catch – they only need Elastigirl at the moment, meaning Mr Incredible aka Bob Parr is demoted to stay-at-home dad duties while his wife is out saving the world.
The trailers would lead you to believe this is meatiest part of the plot, but there’s more at play here. Narratively, it’s painfully predictable – perhaps not so much for younger audiences, but more mature viewers will notice the inevitability very early on. While that may take away the surprise factor, the film has a lot of fun getting there. The highly anticipated return of the greatest animated superhero family is more than adequate, changing the dynamics in topical fashion without stepping over the line into preaching. Seeing Bob Parr struggling to keep a hold on his family, whether it be Dash’s (Huck Milner’s reliably enthusiastic voice performance) hyperactive antics, Violet’s (Sarah Vowell) boy troubles or the never-ending onslaught of discovery with the marvellous baby Jack-Jack, it keeps the boots on the ground a bit and never losing the layer under the previous entry that elevated it to something more – the importance of family.
Jack-Jack is a phenomenon, taking the film’s heartiest laughs. A devilishly creative and free-roaming creation, his supposed 17 (or more) powers are used to hilarious extents in many a set piece. Whether it be his frequent trips to another dimension, his fiery tendencies, or his ability to ‘pew pew’ on demand, it makes all of his scenes unpredictable and tirelessly entertaining.
The gloriously kinetic, vastly varied action sequences much crisper, more gorgeous and all the more thrilling. Elastigirl’s capabilities are a big focus here, giving her intense, pulse-pounding pursuits throughout that would rival many blockbusters. Bird’s direction is often sublime, taking plenty of time in the funner, hectic scenes but adding a touch of beauty to the more intimate moments, whether it be a grown up conversation outside a dimly lit motel swimming pool, or silhouettes behind a window – like it has been previously noted, the animation here is top-tier stuff.
Bird’s script too is fantastic, only taking a couple of light missteps (an off-kilter scene between Elastigirl and Evelyn really does stick out). It’s refreshingly light and often hugely funny, balancing the campy superhero tropes of old, the family flick necessities and modern dialogue, all while remaining a treat for both adults and children alike. It has to be said, the narrative problems are the film’s biggest flaw, but it constantly redeems itself through its stellar animation, reliable focus on Jack-Jack, Michael Giacchino’s supportive, catchy, jazz-band score and well thought out, absorbing set-pieces.