Of Pixar’s announced sequels since “Toy Story 3,” “Incredibles 2” was the first that didn’t indicate a creative drought within the studio. Its predecessor, “The Incredibles,” ended with a mole-like villain drilling his way through the city, signaling that the Parr family’s work was far from over. And with the expectation that every superhero movie must spawn at least two sequels and sometimes even a complete franchise reboot, the existence of “Incredibles 2” was never doubted.
Brad Bird (“Tomorowland”) returns as the writer and director of “Incredibles 2,” with practically full creative control. Unlike other Pixar movies, where the director and writers split duties, both “Incredibles” movies are Bird’s complete vision. After a 14 year break, “Incredibles 2” proves that Bird has not lost his ability to create a unique universe with well-rounded characters.
The movie begins months after the original as the family, in full Incredibles form, attempts to stop the same mole from destroying the city. After the the Parr family's unsuccessful attempt, the government bans superheroes from fighting crime. Rick Dicker, portrayed by the gravelly voiced Jonathan Banks (“Better Call Saul”), breaks the news to the family, and it seems that the superhero era is officially over. However, superhero fanatic and telecommunications mogul Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk, “Better Call Saul”) contacts the Parr family with a plan to restore the public’s admiration of superheroes.
Deavor assigns Helen Parr (Holly Hunter, “The Big Sick”) to return as Elastigirl and fight crime while being videotaped for publicity purposes. Meanwhile, Bob Parr must forgo his role as Mr. Incredible to take care of his family. This presents a welcome change in roles uncommon in contemporary superhero movies — the traditionally strong, indestructible man takes a backseat to his wife, who proves to be more efficient on the job. Along with last summer’s “Wonder Woman,” “Incredibles 2” is a breath of fresh air in a genre flooded with hunky men with bulging biceps and deep voices.
At home, Bob (Craig T. Nelson, “Book Club”) must deal with Jack-Jack, the couple’s infant, as he begins developing a diverse array of superpowers. Jack-Jack, whose superpowers were only hinted at in the original, solidifies his fan-favorite status with some of the movie’s funniest moments.
Meanwhile, Violet and Dash deal with typical teenage stressors, like crushes and unrelenting math assignments. Bob may be able to stop a moving train and save thousands of people, but managing his family is a more daunting challenge. “Incredibles 2” shows that being a supportive and loving parent is a superpower as worthy of admiration as what we more commonly expect from superheroes.
“Incredibles 2” differs from the original in that it primarily takes place in the city rather than removed locations. Still, the sequel is full of plot twists and compelling action sequences that never feel like filler. The story is dense yet simple, and the action is never self-indulgent, a concept foreign to most superhero movies. Although the superpowers that made the original movie’s characters so compelling are no longer a selling point on their own, new heroes are introduced with unique abilities.
Themes from “The Incredibles” are repeated in the sequel, though with a fresh spin. The movie emphasizes the importance of family unity while proving that it is OK for antiquated roles to be reversed: A man so traditionally masculine as Bob can become a stay-at-home dad without any shame. We get a closer look into the Parr family and see them as more than superheroes.
“Incredibles 2” shows that Pixar certainly is far from facing a creative drought. With vibrant animation and hilarious voice actors, highlighted by Samuel L. Jackson (“Avengers: Infinity War”) and Catherine Keener (“Get Out”), it’s a movie that will stand as a highmark in Pixar’s filmography. The studio’s 20th movie, “Incredibles 2” is a sequel that deserves to exist, rather than a cash grab meant to satisfy studio executives.