Pixar sequels from Monsters University to Finding Dory have tarred some of cinema’s favourite characters with mediocre, hit-and-miss storylines, writes Natalie Stendall.
Brad Bird’s Incredibles 2 doesn’t quite reach the dizzy heights of Pixar’s most imaginative and poignant franchise, Toy Story, but it does re-inject the Pixar machine with genuine fun and adventure.
We are reunited with the superhero family (parents Helen and Bob aka Elastigirl and Mr Incredible, along with children Violet, Dash and baby Jack-Jack) where the original film closed in 2004.
Returning writer-director Brad Bird throws us right back into the action as the Supers thwart a bank robbery by the mole-like Underminer.
But using superpowers is still illegal and the city destroying stunt creates a PR nightmare. Rich businessman, Winston Deavor (voiced by Better Call Saul’s Bob Odenkirk), ignites a campaign to make Supers legal again and new bad guy, Screenslaver, provides the family with plenty of opportunities to prove their worth.
This main story is loaded with action, amusing stunts and a fair amount of jeopardy but it’s the movie’s subtext that really hits the mark.
Challenging gender stereotypes, Bird makes Elastigirl the focus of the publicity campaign while Mr Incredible becomes a stay-at-home dad. The plot device opens the film up to some great gags about parenting which Bird paints as its own kind of superpower.
It’s the honesty of Bird’s writing that enables Incredibles 2 to find its own space in our cinematic universe now filled to bursting with Marvel movies and the much loved super-villain franchise, Despicable Me, 14 years after the original film’s release.
It’s relevant too, with plenty of barbed comments about the state of politics - “politicians don’t understand people who do things just because its right,” says Deavor. Meanwhile, the Screenslaver’s weapon of choice - the omnipresent video screen - satirises our obsession with social media.
Incredibles 2 isn’t perfect - the twists are predictable and, aside from an eye-popping action scene in Screenslaver’s lair, the animation lacks the visual innovation we’ve come to expect from Pixar. Yet the voice work from the original cast (Holly Hunter, Craig T. Nelson, Sarah Vowell, Huck Milner and Samuel L Jackson) is warm, relatable and sparkling with tongue-in-cheek humour. Incredibles 2 is packed tight with authentic, honest, family vibes but remains refreshingly candid about the challenges parents face. A surefire hit with children and adults alike.